The sharp-looked at science camera on Europe’s Rosetta comet orbiter got a perspective of the test’s fluffy shadow when controllers guided the spacecraft only a couple of miles over its subject’s core a month ago.
The OSIRIS cam was snapping ceaselessly when spacecraft swooped in for the nearby brush with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the small odd world being investigated for the first time by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.
The sun powered orbiter flew inside around 6 kilometers — or 3.7 miles — of the comet Feb. 14. The flyby was the closest Rosetta has come to comet 67P since it touched base there on August 2.
The approach was timed when the Rosetta was situated specifically between the comet and the sun, giving the rocket’s camera and science instruments flawless lighting to study the compositions of the stones and dust grains spotting the nucleus.
“Images taken from this viewpoint are of high scientific value,” said Holger Sierks, OSIRIS principal investigator from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. “This kind of view is key for the study of grain sizes.”
The geometry additionally yielded a perspective of Rosetta’s shadow on the comet, showing up as a diffuse obscuring on the charcoal dark core.
“The shadow is fuzzy and somewhat larger than Rosetta itself, measuring approximately 20 x 50 meters (65 x 164 feet). If the sun were a point source, the shadow would be sharp and almost exactly the same size as Rosetta,” ESA wrote in a blog entry, “However … the sun appeared as a disc about 0.2 degrees across (about 2.3 times smaller than on Earth), resulting in a fuzzy ‘penumbra’ around the spacecraft’s shadow on the surface.”
ESA says Rosetta and comet 67P were going around 347 million kilometers, or 215 million miles, from the sun amid the Feb. 14 experience. That is around 2.3 times more remote than Earth’s gap from the sun.
The picture of Rosetta’s shadow discharged Tuesday is the first from the flyby taken by the OSIRIS camera that researchers have imparted. Rosetta’s less-fit route camera additionally took pictures as the test coasted by the comet, and ESA posted those pictures a couple of days after.
Rosetta’s central goal proceeds for whatever is left of the year, and maybe into 2016, to finish the most far reaching study ever constructed of a comet.