Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Top class images help ESA’s Rosetta prepare to ride on a cosmic bullet

26.02.2002


Rosetta’s goal is to unravel the origins of the Solar System


Comet Wirtanen as seen by the VLT


Chase a fast-moving comet, land on it and ’ride’ it while it speeds up towards the Sun: not the script of a science-fiction movie, but the very real task of ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft.

New observations with the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) provide vital information about Comet Wirtanen - Rosetta’s target - to help ESA reduce uncertainties in the mission, one of the most difficult ever to be performed.

Every 5.5 years Comet Wirtanen completes an orbit around the Sun. Wirtanen has been seen during almost all its apparitions ever since its discovery in 1948, but only recently have astronomers obtained detailed observations that have allowed them to estimate the comet’s size and behaviour. The most recent of these observations was performed in December 2001 with the Very Large Telescope (VLT), located at the Paranal Observatory (Chile). As a result of these observations ESA will be able to refine plans for its Rosetta mission.


Rosetta will be launched next year and it will reach Comet Wirtanen in 2011. By that time the comet will be as far from the Sun as Jupiter, charging headlong towards the inner Solar System at speeds of up to 135,000 km/h. To get there and to be able to match the comet’s orbit, Rosetta will need to be accelerated by several planetary swing-bys, after which the spacecraft - following a series of difficult manoeuvres - will get close to the comet, enter into orbit around it and release a lander from a height of about 1 km.

The VLT observations were planned specifically to investigate the activity of Wirtanen at the time of the landing manoeuvres. These observations have confirmed that - at the same distance from the Sun at which the landing will take place (450 million km) - the activity on Wirtanen is very low. This is very good news for the mission, because it means that there will not be so much dust ejected as to make the landing dramatically difficult.

Comets are basically small frozen bodies made of ice and dust. When they get close to the Sun the heat causes ices on the comet’s surface to "evaporate", and gas and dust grains are ejected into the surrounding space forming the comet’s atmosphere (coma) and the tail. In addition to dropping a lander on the comet’s nucleus for detailed in-situ observations, Rosetta’s task is to investigate the evolution of the comet on its way to the Sun: in fact, Rosetta will keep orbiting around Wirtanen up to the end of the mission in July 2013, at which time the comet is at its closest approach to the Sun, at about 160 million km from it.

VLT observations have also provided Rosetta mission planners with an accurate measurement of their target’s size: Wirtanen is only 1.2 km in diameter, a true cosmic bullet.
"Rosetta is certainly a very challenging space mission. No one has ever tried to land on a comet before," says Gerhard Schwehm, Rosetta’s Project Scientist. "We need to learn as much as possible about our target. The new data will allow us to improve our models and make decisions once we get there."

Franco Bonacina | ESA
Further information:
http://www.esa.int

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht APEX takes a glimpse into the heart of darkness
25.05.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

nachricht First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR
24.05.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>