Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

ESO's Very Large Telescope Helps ESA's Rosetta Spacecraft Prepare To Ride On A Cosmic Bullet

Date:
March 6, 2002
Source:
European Southern Observatory
Summary:
New images of Comet Wirtanen's 1-km 'dirty snowball' nucleus have been obtained with the ESO Very Large Telescope at Paranal (Chile). They show this object at a distance of approx. 435 million km from the Sun, about the same as when the Rosetta spacecraft of the European Space Agency (ESA) arrives in 2011.

New images of Comet Wirtanen's 1-km 'dirty snowball' nucleus have been obtained with the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope at Paranal (Chile). They show this object at a distance of approx. 435 million km from the Sun, about the same as when the Rosetta spacecraft of the European Space Agency (ESA) arrives in 2011.

The new observations indicate that the comet has a very low degree of activity at this point in its orbit - almost no material is seen around the nucleus. This means that there will not be so much dust near the nucleus as to make the planned landing dramatically difficult. 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 nearly 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 about the same solar distance as at the time of the landing manoeuvres. Because of this timing requirement, they had to be carried out at a certain moment - unfortunately, when the comet was low in the twilight evening sky and descending rapidly towards the western horizon. However, even though the exposures therefore had to be quite short, the VLT with its superb light-gathering capability and opto-mechanical perfection was still able to produce excellent images of this rather faint, moving object (about 6 million times fainter than what can be perceived with the unaided eye).

"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 VLT data will allow us to improve our models and make decisions once we get there."

"It is a pleasure to help our colleagues at ESA", says ESO astronomer and comet specialist Hermann Boehnhardt. "We will continue to keep an eye on this comet, in particular when Rosetta is approaching its target. We can then provide the spacecraft controllers and the astronomers with very useful, regular updates, e.g., about the 'cometary weather' at the time of arrival."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Southern Observatory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Southern Observatory. "ESO's Very Large Telescope Helps ESA's Rosetta Spacecraft Prepare To Ride On A Cosmic Bullet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020227071427.htm>.
European Southern Observatory. (2002, March 6). ESO's Very Large Telescope Helps ESA's Rosetta Spacecraft Prepare To Ride On A Cosmic Bullet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020227071427.htm
European Southern Observatory. "ESO's Very Large Telescope Helps ESA's Rosetta Spacecraft Prepare To Ride On A Cosmic Bullet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020227071427.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

AP (July 18, 2014) Forty-five years ago Sunday, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon. Speaking at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Aldrin described what he was thinking right before the historic walk. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Orbital Cargo Ship Reaches International Space Station

Orbital Cargo Ship Reaches International Space Station

AFP (July 16, 2014) Orbital Sciences Corporation's unmanned cargo ship arrived Wednesday at the International Space Station carrying a load of food and equipment for the six-man crew at the research outpost. Duration: 00:33 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins