On July 04, 2005 at 7:52 a.m., a copper projectile fired from the NASA Deep Impact spacecraft hits comet Tempel 1. Shortly afterwards, the OSIRIS camera system onboard of the Rosetta spacecraft measures a dramatic increase in brightness. Within half an hour, the comet was seven times brighter than before the impact and remained constant in its brightness.
During the night of February 24/25, 2007, the Rosetta spacecraft flew past Mars. It used the gravity attraction of the red planet to gain momentum for its further flight, and took these spectacular images of the red planet.
A space camera developed under the direction of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research discovered deep craters on the surface of asteroid Steins. On September 7, 2008, the Rosetta spacecraft flew by the asteroid at only 800 kilometres of distance.
On November 12, 2009, Rosetta passed Earth at a speed of 50,000 km/h. During this flyby, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research took spectacular pictures. "We used the wide-angle and telephoto camera for these shots, and we are enthusiastic about the unique quality," said project leader Holger Sierks.
The surface of the asteroid Lutetia is covered with craters. In some places, parallel grooves also occur. With a resolution of about 60 metres per pixel, the pictures enable an intriguing glance at Lutetia. "This is a completely new world that no one has seen before," says Max Planck researcher Holger Sierks, head of the OSIRIS team. The planetoid, whose longest axis measures about 126 kilometres, has an oval shape. In one of the larger craters, the images show evidence of a landslide.
Approximately 163 million kilometres still separate the Rosetta spacecraft from the comet Churjumov-Gerasimenko, which it will reach in 2014. Despite this considerable distance, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research succeeded in taking pictures of the remote target on June 8, 2011. The pictures were taken during the last test. Shortly after, Rosetta enters its nearly three-year-long hibernation phase. In order to save energy, all systems are shut down during the last part of the trip, which offers only little sunlight.
After ten years of travelling and a long, deep sleep, the Rosetta spacecraft is woken up on January 20, 2014. At night, the vehicle sent a signal to the ESA control centre in Darmstadt. This is the beginning of the last stage to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The Philae lander is supposed to descend on its surface in November.
<strong>The comet</strong><strong> releases water steam</strong>
Water evaporates from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, destination of the current ESA mission Rosetta. First measurements of the instrument MIRO on board of the spacecraft not only identified the gas, but also determined its amount. Although the comet is still in the icy depths of space, the amount of water released already reaches the equivalent of two small glasses of water per second. The MIRO team includes researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. MIRO’s Chirp Transform Spektrometer was developed at the institute. It tracks specific gases in the vicinity of the comet.
While Rosetta is slowly approaching its destination, the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko proves once again that it is full of surprises. It consists of two parts and appears to be significantly different from all comets that space probes have visited so far.
The nucleus of comet: OSIRIS snapped this image of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimernko from a distance of 1950 kilometers on July 29th, 2014. One pixel corresponds to approximately 37 meters. The bright neck region between the comet’s head and body is becoming more and more distinct.
Five at one go: These regions on comet 67P are possible landing sites. They remained from an initial selection of ten landing sites and are labelled with the letters A, B, C, I and J, which however does not indicate a ranking. The images were taken by the scientific camera system OSIRIS on 16 August 2014 from a distance of around 100 kilometres.
The surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko can be divided into several regions. In this view of the “belly” and part of the “head” of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, several morphologically different regions are indicated.
The chosen landing site J is located on the "head" of the comet. In this dramatic view of the chosen landing site, it is marked by a cross. In the opinion of the lander team, which consulted in Toulouse, this spot, carrying the beautiful name "Agilkia", offers the best prerequisites for a secure landing and successful measurements.
The activity of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is beginning to increase considerably. The dust spewed into space by the comet in the past few months originated mainly from its "neck" region, which connects both parts of the comet. New images of 67P, taken by ESA's space probe Rosetta’s, now show that jets of cometary activity can be seen along almost the whole body of the comet.
For months now, the southern side of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been in eternal darkness, making it impossible to determine shape and surface structures. Only the light scattered from dust particles in the comet’s coma very slightly illuminates this uncharted territory. In this light, Rosetta’s scientific imaging system has now caught a first glimpse of the comet's nucleus on November 6.