Rosetta has been spending August, September, and now part of October flying around the comet 67P. Eventually, the spacecraft could get as close as 10km. On November 12th Rosetta, and the European Space Agency will attempt to put a smaller craft on the comet, to run some advanced testing with the five tools on the craft.
If the craft called Philae is able to land, it would be an historic event. It would take 7 hours to make happen, and very well could fail, or not happen at all. The ESA is said to be making the final decision in the coming weeks.
Much of that will be contingent on the ability to understand what they’re dealing with when they attempt to land the spacecraft. The ESA has been using the phrase “about 4km wide” to describe how large the comet is, but that really gives a little insight as to what the comet looks like on a closer basis.
However, some better figures have been released. At least, more replicable figures if you’re in the market of duplicating this comet. The head, or smaller portion is 2.5km by 2.5km by 2.0km. The body, or larger portion is described as 4.1km by 3.2km by 1.3km. The comet has a mass of 10 billion tons and a density of 400kg per cubic meter.
It’s taken awhile for the space agency to release this information, but it should be remembered that the reason for this was due to the fact that it is highly irregular and partially in complete darkness. And even then, one figure still remains to be seen. The comet’s albedo, or the degree by which the comet reflects light is still unknown.
Overall, a lot of questions remain – but now individuals with the proper equipment can access the files to actually print a 3D version of what the comet looks like. This is without any question the most exciting, and curious object in space right now and with the pending potential landing on it by Rosetta’s smaller craft in November it will be very interesting to see what else we can possibly learn from 67P that could give us greater insight into our solar system as a whole.