One year into its twelve year journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission will make a “close” flyby of Earth on Friday 4th March. UK scientists involved in the mission are hoping for a glimpse of the spacecraft which should be visible in the UK with the use of a telescope.
Whilst it has been visible to large amateur telescopes since 26th February, the best opportunity to view the spacecraft in Europe will be on Friday 4th March when it makes its closest approach to Earth. At a distance of 1900 km or 1,180 miles (the equivalent of a journey between Edinburgh and Rome) even the 32 metre solar panels on Rosetta are expected to be visible!
After sunset the spacecraft will appear to travel south east to south west, moving from the constellation Sextans towards the setting Sun, crossing the complete sky. As it heads west it will move faster and disappear below the horizon around 22.00 GMT. From Europe it will only reach a magnitude of +8 or +9 on the brightness scale used by astronomers. This is dimmer than a typical faint star and whilst not readily apparent to the eye will be able to be viewed and photographed (weather permitting) by a decent amateur telescope with digital imaging equipment. See notes to editors for details about ESA’s “Rosetta Up Close” photographic competition.
Gill Ormrod | alfa
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