Rosetta Spies A Spinning Comet!

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Geasimenko rotating on 27-28 June 2014. If you look closely, you can see the comet’s not quite spherical. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team

Look at that baby spin. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko covers only 4 pixels in this movie but you can see a shape emerging even at this level of resolution. The ‘era of the blip’ is over!

In this smaller version of the video, you can see the comet’s rotation and shape more clearly. Credit: ESA

The movie’s composited from 36 still images taken on June 27-28 from a distance of 53,438 miles (86,000 km) and shows the comet nucleus spinning at the rate of once every 12.4 hours. Yesterday the Rosetta spacecraft pulled to within 26,718 miles (43,000 km) of 67P; by Sunday it will be as far from the comet as you and I are from the geostationary belt of Earth-orbiting satellites – a mere 22,370 miles.

Comet 67P/C-G appears rather fuzzy in the movie and seems to cover a larger area just two by two pixels. This is due to the physical effects of the way light is spread inside the imaging system and is not associated with the comet displaying a coma. The effect will disappear in the next two weeks when the images swell to 20 by 20 pixels and larger.

Go, Rosetta, go!

3 Responses

  1. Giorgio Rizzarelli

    Hi Bob. You probably noticed there’s big sunspots these days. I hadn’t time to watch, but these, especially 2109, are around 3% of the solar disk (diameter including penumbra) so certainly naked eye with artificial filter, and probably also with natural filter like fog (if one would be so lucky to have fog).

    1. astrobob

      Hi Giorgio,
      Yes! Thanks for reminding me. They are big! I could see three naked eye today with a filter. I may even write something up.

      1. Giorgio Rizzarelli

        You beat me 😀 I watched today. Saw two of them easily naked eye in filter (the currently central 2108, and the almost central 2109). Impressive structures in white light filtered telescope, and quite notable spots also in H-alpha.

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