Rosetta mission team took a photo of a ‘comet eclipse’ when 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko got between the probe and the Sun. The stunning image was taken on Mar 27, when mission engineers moved Rosetta father away to snap a larger picture of the comet’s body and trail.
According to the team, the comet was located 205 miles from the probe at the time of the photo session. The photo was posted online by the European Space Agency (ESA) which funded the $1 billion historic mission to orbit and land on a moving comet.
ESA scientists explained how the photo was captured. The team resorted to a four-second exposure and a low-gain setting on Rosetta’s navigational camera (NAVCAM). Low-gain setting are used by professional photographers when they try to capture extremely bright objects.
According to the team, the settings allowed them to capture ‘beautiful outflows of activity’ coming from the comet’s body in all directions. The orbiter is now being moved closer to Comet 67P as on Apr 9 scientists plan to perform a flyby of the comet at just an 18.6 mile altitude.
ESA explained that Rosetta can orbit the comet perpetually as it is powered by solar cells. But as the comet distances itself from the sun, communications could soon become unstable. The comet is located at more than 248 million miles from the Sun and receiding.
As Rosetta gets less and less sunlight, its instruments could soon enter hibernation mode. In October, scientists won’t be able to observe the comet from Earth either, because the space object will hide behind the Sun. ESA expects communications and data collection to become ‘very challenging’ in September.
But Rosetta is slated to meet the same fate of Philae lander, the tiny robotic probe that missed a successful landing on the moving comet. Philae’s mothership, Rosetta, will be crashed into the comet in September, the space agency added. I the meantime the mission team is still gathering scientific data.
The team said that even if Rosetta remains operational after the impact, communication would be impossible. Researchers pointed out that the probe’s antenna needs to be oriented in the direction of our planet for data transmission. But if the antenna misses Earth by as much as half a degree, ground antennas on Earth will receive nothing.
Image Source: Twitter