November 14, 2009

Rosetta Captures Stunning Picture of the Earth

ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, as it is conducting its final flyby of the Earth, captured a very stunning picture of the planet, showing an illuminated crescent. The image was made by combining images taken through the orange, green, and blue filters by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera onboard. In the resulting picture, the South Pole and Antarctica are exposed in the sliver of the Earth illuminated.

As Rosetta approaches the Earth, space scientists will have an opportunity to study its orbital energy. Previous flybys of other crafts have shown mysterious variance in the amount of orbital energy, revealed as a small difference in the spacecraft's speed and the predicted speed. During Rosetta's flyby, its speed will be measured to see if there is a change.

Launched in 2004, Rosetta's mission is to study the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014, as well as two asteroids. It will land the Philae lander on the comet. The lander will transmit data about the composition of the comet and will continue to study the comet as it approaches the Sun.

Image: ESA

Astronomy and Space Celebrates International Year of Astronomy 2009.

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