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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Long journey to Comet

Comet is one of the 'fossil' for astronomers to study the history of the solar system. ISON and Lovejoy, are two comets becoming the most coveted celestial object at the end of 2013. In addition to the two comets, there are many other comets in the solar system. Observations of comets carried through ground-based telescopes and spacecraft.
Rosetta spacecraft mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in an artist's illustration. (Picture from: http://davidpiercestudio.com/)
One agency that launched the spacecraft to study the comet is the European Space Agency (ESA). Following the success of previous missions such as Giotto and Vega I, ESA launched the spacecraft to study comets, named Rosetta. In contrast to previous spacecraft were only observing the comet at a considerable distance, this time the Rosetta spacecraft will orbit and land on the comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko nucleus.

The ESA's Rosetta spacecraft.  
(Picture from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/)
As the name implies, the Rosetta was taken from a famous stone name in the world. The main objective of this mission is to study the comet in situ, venturing into the past to know the history of the formation of the solar system.

Rosseta launched on March 2, 2004 after a long journey to the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet nucleus. Rosetta does not slide directly toward the comet, but rather pass some celestial object to get additional power. Spacecrfat with size (2.8 m x 2.1 m x 2 m) is like a ball and bouncing between Earth and Mars. After receiving additional power, then Rosetta glide to pass Asteroid belt. Maneuver as above is done to reduce the Rosetta cost of fuel.
Long journey of ESA's Rosetta spacecraft to various celestial objects. (Picture from: http://en.wikipedia.org/)
This spacecraft continues to crawl up to a distance of about 5 au (astronomical units) from the Sun. The journey is long and Rosetta requires extreme instrument designed specifically. When far from the Sun, the machine must be kept warm in order to function properly. Therefore, the spacecraft is equipped with a pair of solar panels measuring almost 32 m2. Conversely when Rosetta is close to the Sun, need some sort of radiator to make its instrument was not too hot.

In addition, Rosetta is also designed to minimize the effects of collisions with asteroids. Its Philae lander placed on the back of the Rosetta spacecraft. Its antenna directed to the Earth that can still communicate, while the solar panels are directed to the Sun to get maximum light, And the other instruments remain facing the destination comet.

In July 2011 Rosetta start its hibernation to minimize the fuel used. Rosetta will wake up on January 20, 2014, then warm up and will make the first contact with Earth a few hours after the engine is turned on.

After that, Rosetta will continue the journey to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta will reach the comet in May 2014, and will orbit to mapping the entire passage of comet. The challenge is to be able to compensate for the Rosetta comet speeds that can reach 100,000 kph. This is not an easy thing because Rosetta not only follow the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but also orbiting the comet. Then in November 2014 at a distance of 3 au from the Sun, Rosetta's Philae lander will be released to land on the comet nucleus.

The lander observations will be performed at various wavelengths such as infrared, ultraviolet, and radio. The results of this study will be compared with ground-based observations and the Giotto mission's observations result.

It is the special of the Rosetta spacecraft will observe how the comet's tail began to react along with the close proximity of the comet to the Sun. Rosetta will make its closest distance to the Sun is about 160 km.

In situ study will help us know the exact composition of comets. Comet primitive material suspected has not changed since the beginning of the solar system formed. In addition, by using radioactive we can determine the age of the solar system more closely. The comet forming elements will be a clue whether the comet is one of the major contributors of water on Earth.. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | LISTYA DARA SUNDA PRABAWA | PIKIRAN RAKYAT 16012014]
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