Rosetta Watches Comet Fire Its Jets

In a montage of four new photos of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a region of jet activity can be seen at the neck of the comet. These jets, originating from several locations, are a product of ices sublimating and gases escaping from inside the nucleus.

The images were captured by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft on September 26. Rosetta was about 26 kilometers from the center of the comet.

The overlapping and slightly dissimilar angles of the four images are a result of the combined effect of the comet rotating between the first and last images taken in the sequence (about 10 degrees over 20 minutes), and the spacecraft movement during that same time.

Rosetta’s objectives since arriving at comet 67P are to study the celestial object up close in unprecedented detail, prepare for landing a probe on the comet’s nucleus in November, and after the landing, track the comet’s changes through 2015 as it sweeps past the sun.

Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when the sun and its planets formed. Observations will help scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of the solar system and the role comets may have played in seeding Earth with water and perhaps even life.

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