Comets

Photo of the balancing rocks taken by the Rosetta space probe's OSIRIS camera on September 16, 2014 (Image ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

The scientists of the Rosetta space probe’s OSIRIS camera’s team discovered a curious rock formation in the region called Aker of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. They look like the balancing rocks existing in various places on Earth and precisely these are three rocks that seem to have very little contact with the comet’s surface.

Picture of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken on March 12, 2015 at 5.13 UTC. No jets are coming from the bottom area (Image ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

ESA’s space probe Rosetta identified new jets of gas and dust emerge from the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The images were taken using the OSIRIS camera on March 12, 2015 and were presented last week during EGU2015 (European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2015) in Vienna. The activity on the comet keeps on increasing but it took some luck to detect new jets.

Four image montage of pictures of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko taken by the space probe Rosetta (Image ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

During the past weekend, ESA’s space probe Rosetta has taken a new flyby about 14 kilometers (about 8.6 miles) away from the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This means that it hasnt come as close as in February, however, the comet’s increasing activity caused some problems in Rosetta. Among the consequences, it had serious difficulties in communicating with ESA’s mission control.

Montage of four pictures of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by the Rosetta space probe's NAVCAM (Image ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

After the flyby performed a few weeks ago, the Rosetta space probe moved away from the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and was able to observe its increasing activity. In late February, from a distance between 80 and 100 km (from 50 to 52 miles) its Navigation Camera (NAVCAM) instrument took several photographs that ESA processed to make the best observations of the jets of steam and dust emitted by the comet.

Image of the SOHO space probe showing the comet C/2015 D1 (SOHO) near the Sun (Image ESA/NASA/SOHO/Hill)

The SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) space probe has the primary purpose of keeping an eye on the Sun but when a comet passes close to our star is also useful to track its trajectory. Last week, SOHO identified a new comet because passing near the Sun it’s become bright enough to be detected.

This comet was originally called SOHO-2875 because in the course of over 19 years of mission in a collaboration between ESA and NASA this is the 2875th comet identified by the SOHO space probe. Subsequently officially named C/2015 D1 (SOHO), it survived a flyby with the Sun and may also be visible from Earth in the coming weeks.