European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has captured an image of Comet 67P, just in time when the comet was backlit by the sun. The stunning image was captured this week, when the spacecraft was moving further to explore Comet 67P’s coma and tail.
Officials at ESA said that the probe just a few hundred kilometers from the comet when it passed between Rosetta and the sun, helping it to capture the stunning image. Currently, Rosetta is moving closer towards the comet, and by April 9, it will zoom past at an altitude of just 30 kilometers. According to ESA, the duck-shaped object is on its course to move out of the solar system, but it’s still active. The image was captured with a combination of a long, four second exposure and a low-grain setting on the analogue signal processor of NAVCAM.
“The image reveals the bright environment of the comet, displaying beautiful outflows of activity streaming away from the nucleus in various directions,” said the ESA.
Rosetta is set to touch down on the comet in September, ending the mission. The spacecraft might face the same fate pf Philae comet lander, which could not make a successful landing. But, mission controllers will try to carry out a smooth landing, in hopes of collecting more data. Even if the spacecraft survives, communication would be possible only if the antennas are pointed at Earth. However, the spacecraft will be collecting as much data as possible, and is now collecting data on the 4km-wide wanderer’s tail. Currently, the comet is moving 20 kilometers further away fro the sun, which would gradually deplete its solar power, and all the scientific instruments on the probe might not work. The probe which was launched in 2004, has traveled more than 7.7 billion kilometers. It reached Comet 67P on August 2014, and was closest to the sun on Aug. 2015.[ Source ]