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Rosetta mission ends with comet touchdown

30 September 2016 Stephen Clark

Europe’s Rosetta mission ended its 12-year mission Friday with a slow-speed belly-flop on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, concluding an interplanetary odyssey that gave humanity a first close-up introduction to a class of objects which has stimulated imaginations for millennia.

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Live coverage: Rosetta’s final hours

30 September 2016 Stephen Clark

Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft will close out a historic 4.9-billion-mile journey Friday with a slow-speed crash into the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the tiny world it has studied for the last two years, capturing some of the mission’s best science data to help unravel the inner workings of the comet. Confirmation of the crash landing should arrive on Earth around 1218 BST.

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Philae found! Rosetta’s lander wedged in cometary crevice

5 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Less than a month before the end of the mission, Rosetta’s high-resolution camera has revealed the Philae lander wedged into a dark crack on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The images were taken on 2 September by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera as the orbiter came within 2.7 kilometres of the comet’s surface.

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How comets break up and make up

2 June 2016 Astronomy Now

For some comets, breaking up is not that hard to do. A new study indicates that the bodies of some periodic comets — objects that orbit the Sun in less than 200 years — may regularly split in two, then reunite down the road. This may be a repeating process fundamental to comet evolution.

Top Stories 2015

No. 9 Rosetta rides with its comet

1 January 2016 Keith Cooper

While 2014 was the year the Rosetta spacecraft celebrated making it into orbit around a comet, 2015 was the year it got down to some serious hard work. Its comet, with the tongue-twisting name 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, made its closest approach (186 million kilometres) to the Sun, a period known as perihelion when the comet would be expected to be at its most active. Rosetta was there to witness this.

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Astronomers recall discovery of Phaethon — source of Geminid meteors

12 December 2015 Astronomy Now

The beautiful Geminid meteor shower is due to light up the heavens this weekend, but the source of the enigmatic cosmic display had eluded stargazers for more than 120 years. Then, in 1983, two University of Leicester astronomers — Dr. Simon Green and Dr. John Davies — used data from the IRAS satellite to discover 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid with a very unusual orbit.

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How Rosetta’s comet got its shape

29 September 2015 Astronomy Now

The origin of of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s double-lobed form has been a key question since Rosetta first revealed its surprising shape in July 2014. By studying the layers of material seen all over the nucleus, scientists have shown that the shape arose from a low-speed collision between two fully fledged, separately formed comets.

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The surface of Rosetta’s comet is changing

20 September 2015 Stephen Clark

Views from Europe’s Rosetta comet orbiter show mysterious markings appearing on the nucleus of Comet 67P in recent months, with new surface features forming within a matter of weeks, and scientists are digging into the complex causes of the cometary erosion.