ESA

Six of the icy areas on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko found by the Rosetta space probe (Image ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

The OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) camera on ESA’s space probe Rosetta allowed to identify 120 icy areas on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. A study of the presence of ice has just been published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics”. That presence was well known but Rosetta’s observations allowed to understand the phases of transformation into gas, how much of it forms the comet’s coma and tail and what falls back to the surface.

The area of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where Philae landed (Ellipse: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CONSERT; Image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

During the weekend the lander Philae resumed communications from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It’s been almost exactly seven months since Philae ran out of battery power and, because its position didn’t allow it to recharge them using its solar panels, had gone into hibernation. Now ESA is preparing new plans to try to make the most of the period in which the comet will be close enough to the Sun to provide the energy needed for Philae to work.

Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti assisted after their landing in the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft (Photo NASA TV, Anatoly Zak)

A little while ago, NASA astronaut Terry Virts, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, returned to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft, landed without problems in Kazakhstan. The three of them spent nearly six and a half months on the International Space Station, where they arrived on November 24, 2014. They were initially part of the Expedition 42, in the second half of their stay they were part of Expedition 43 with Terry Virts as Station commander.

Picture of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by the Rosetta space probe on May 20, 2015 that shows gas jets coming from its nucleus (Photo ESA/Rosetta/NavCam)

The journal “Astronomy and Astrophysics” will publish an article that illustrates a discovery about the atmosphere of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko generated by the sublimation of the ice it contains. Water, but also carbon dioxide, are turned into steam but thanks to the instrument Alice of the space probe Rosetta it was possible to discover that these molecules get broken and that this happens in two stages.