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Comets

Research carried out by New York University points towards dark matter as a driving force ...

A new study carried out by Professor Michael Rampino of New York University suggests that dark matter may have had a part to play in the periodic mass extinction events that are known to have taken place throughout Earth's history. It takes our planet roughly 250 million years to circle the Milky Way, and around every 30 million years the Sun's orbit takes us through what is known as the galactic disk. The galactic disk is where the majority of the mass in our galaxy resides, and alongside it a thin disk of dark matter.  Read More

Comet 67P as seen from an altitude of 8.7 km (5.4 mi) (Image: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam)

In a space-age game of chicken, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta probe made its closest approach to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko last weekend. The spacecraft, which has ceased orbiting the comet due to 67P's increased activity as it approaches the Sun, came within 6 km (3.7 mi) of the surface over the Imhotep region of the larger of the comet’s two lobes, with the up close and personal maneuver taking place, appropriately enough, on Valentine's Day.  Read More

Four-image mosaic of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko snapped by Rosetta on Jan. 21 (Image:...

ESA's Rosetta orbiter is preparing to make a daring 6 km (3.7 miles) pass of one of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko's most active regions – an area on the comet's larger lobe designated as Imhotep. As the comet moves closer to the Sun, mission controllers are expecting to see an exponential increase in volatile activity, and ESA hopes that the new orbits planned for the little probe will allow scientists to gain a better understanding of these effects.  Read More

Sequence of images taken by Rosetta as Philae descended to the comet surface (Image: ESA/R...

After months of searching, the Euopean Space Agency (ESA) has given up the hunt for the lost Philae comet lander. Despite having narrowed the final resting place of the unmanned probe to a "landing strip" measuring 350 x 30 m (1,150 x 100 ft) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the space agency has been unable to locate it and has commanded the Rosetta spacecraft to move into a higher orbit as it continues its science mission.  Read More

Comet regional maps (Image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/D...

A generation ago, Astronomers thought of comets as simple things – huge dirty snowballs of rock and ice with a few organic chemicals thrown in. But after six months orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the unmanned Rosetta probe has shown them to be far more complex and active than previously thought.  Read More

Artist's impression of the Mercury periodic meteor shower (Image: NASA's Goddard Space Fli...

Sit out on a clear summer's night and the odds are that you'll be treated to a meteor shower that's the remnant of a comet's passing. However, such showers are not peculiar to our planet. NASA's unmanned MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) orbiter has uncovered evidence that the planet Mercury is subject to the same sort of periodic meteor showers as the Earth, only instead of a light show, it produces a spike in calcium in the planet's exosphere.  Read More

The latest findings indicate that the Earth's water may not have come from comets (Image E...

The oceans are a mystery in more ways than one, but you might not expect the answers to come from a pack of electronics and a comet. But that's what the European Space Agency (ESA) says about the unmanned Rosetta probe orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Though 67P is making its first visit to the inner Solar System and won't come closer to the Earth than hundreds of millions of miles, it is throwing new light on one of the fundamental questions in Earth's history: Where did the oceans come from?  Read More

Artist's impression of the Rosetta spacecraft (Image: ESA - J. Huart)

As Philae begins its long sleep, bedded down on the surface of comet 67P/Churymov–Gerasimenko (67P), mankind's attention shifts back to the Rosetta spacecraft as she begins the next phase of her audacious mission. Over the course of the next year, Rosetta will become the first spacecraft to orbit and observe a comet as it approaches the Sun, allowing the already phenomenally successful mission to detail the evolving characteristics of 67P as the heat from our star causes a dramatic rise in activity.  Read More

Photo mosaic showing Philae's approach, landing, and bounce (Image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OS...

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released an image mosaic taken by the Rosetta mothership showing the Philae lander’s November 12 touchdown on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The composite image shows the unmanned spacecraft making its approach to the surface of 67/P and its first rebound after its anchoring harpoons failed to deploy, along with timestamps in GMT (lander time) and images contrasting the touch sites before and after landing.  Read More

Artist's impression of the Philae lander (Image: ESA) (Image: ESA)

After its historic landing on a comet, the Philae spacecraft has gone silent. Trapped on its side in a shadowed hole, the unmanned European Space Agency lander was unable to receive enough sunlight to recharge its battery and contact was lost today at 00:36 GMT when power levels dropped below critical.  Read More

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