How Dust Lightens Up The ‘Dark Side’ Of Rosetta’s Comet

This "dark side" image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows light backscattered from dust particles in the coma surrounding the comet, which helps scientists search for surface features. The picture was taken by the Rosetta spacecraft Sept. 29 from about 19 kilometers (12 miles). Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

This “dark side” image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows light backscattered from dust particles in the coma surrounding the comet, which helps scientists search for surface features. The picture was taken by the Rosetta spacecraft Sept. 29 from about 19 kilometers (12 miles). Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

How do you see a side of a comet that is usually shrouded in darkness? For the plucky scientists using the Rosetta spacecraft, the answer comes down to using dust to their advantage. They’re trying to catch a glimpse of the shadowed southern side using light scattering from dust particles in anticipation of watching the comet’s activity heat up next year.

Using Rosetta’s OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) instrument, scientists are diligently mapping Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s surface features as it draws closer to the Sun. Funny enough, the shadowed side will be in full sunlight by the time the comet gets to its closest approach. This gives scientists more incentive to see what it looks like now.

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Read the rest of How Dust Lightens Up The ‘Dark Side’ Of Rosetta’s Comet (261 words)


© Elizabeth Howell for Universe Today, 2014. |
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