Rosetta is the name of the spacecraft which has been sent to the Comet 67P and is about 37 miles from its target. A camera on board the Rosetta spacecraft took pictures of the comet from a distance of 49 miles. Rosetta’s observations in the far ultraviolet range showed a un-reflective surface and also a lack of water–ice patches on the comet 67P.
Rosetta is an international endeavor and was launched by the European Space Agency way back in 2004. It is for the first time a spacecraft will orbit a comet so close. The 10 years journey of the space craft also included three year hibernation in deep space. Rosetta is at present only 37 miles from the surface of the comet. The comet is some 326 million miles from the Sun and will approach the Sun in August next year.
Rosetta is nearing the comet and its instruments are already collecting data which will help give new insights into the composition of Comets and also their evolution after repeated orbits round the Sun. Rosetta will inch closer to the comet and will come within 6.2 miles from the surface of the Comet when it will try to drop a probe on the comet for the first ever observation of a comet. The lander is crammed with more than 20 specialized instruments and will work for a year or more on 67P.
An ultraviolet spectrograph Developed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, named ‘Alice’ is bringing home the first observations ever made of a comet’s surface in far-ultraviolet radiation something which conventional telescopes cannot do because they rely on visible light. Alice is sending high-resolution data which will enable investigators gain new information about this comet’s gases and ices and so also about the evolution of comets in general.