Rosetta provides first peek into comet 67P’s dark side

Rosetta provides first peek into comet 67P’s dark side

European Space Agencies' Rosetta spacecraft has been surveying an odd double-lobed comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since August 2014 and is determined to collect data related to its surface and the environment.

For a long time, the spacecraft has failed in reaching the dark and cold regions across the south pole of the comet, but now Rosetta has finally accessed this isolated place and has give the first peek at comet 67P's dark side. Rosetta's Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) captured the image.

On the arrival at the comet, Rosetta discovered that the comets northern hemisphere was experiencing summer which lasted 5.5 years whereas its southern hemisphere was totally under dark, cold winters. For nearly past five years, the southern region has received very little amount of sunlight due to which the only way to observe this region of the comet was MIRO, the Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter.

Lead author of the study, Mathieu Choukroun from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, said, "We observed the 'dark side' of the comet with MIRO on many occasions after Rosetta's arrival at 67P/C-G, and these unique data are telling us something very intriguing about the material just below its surface".

Choukroun and his colleagues analyzed this initial data and said that there could be huge amount of ice present within few tens of centimeters beneath the surface in the region.

Choukroun said they were surprised to found that the thermal and electrical properties around the comet's south pole were very different than what they found elsewhere on the nucleus.

"In the past few months, Rosetta has flown over the southern polar regions on several occasions, starting to collect data from this part of the comet after summer began there. At the beginning of the southern summer, we had a paucity of observations in these regions as Rosetta's trajectory focused on the northern hemisphere due to ongoing communication with the lander, Philae. However, closer to perihelion we were able to begin observing the south," ESA Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor said, according to Gizmag.

"First, we observed these dark regions with MIRO, the only instrument able to do so at the time, and we tried to interpret these unique data. Now, as these regions became warmer and brighter around perihelion, we can observe them with other instruments, too," Taylor, added, according to Astronomy Magazine.

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