Farewell, Rosetta!

Hey, sky fans. Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a great week. It certainly feels like fall around here, raining and cool. So goes any chance I had at (not) seeing the Black Moon. It’s been kid of a busy week in space exploration, from NASA’s news about plumes of water at Europa on Monday, to Space X’s hopes to turn every kids’ (and many adults’) fantasies into reality. So, here’s today’s Friday Photo (or is it Photo Friday? I can never keep this straight).

Maybe it’s not the best photo ever, but it’s amazing. What we have here is the last photo from the ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft, whose mission ended today with a controlled impact into 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P). This photo was taken just before impact, at an altitude between 20 and 51 meters above the comet. Think about that for a second. That was taken by a camera millions of miles away on a spacecraft that was on its way to crashing into a comet. If that doesn’t sound like space exploration, I don’t know what does.

Rosetta was launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2004. It’s mission was to catch up with 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P), a Jupiter-family comet that orbits the Sun every six and a half years. Jupiter-family comets are those that have orbital periods shorter than 20 years. About ten years after launch, in 2014, it caught up with the comet and then became the first spacecraft to orbit a comet. While it was there, it released the Philae lander, which became the first spacecraft to land on a comet. On the way, Rosetta also flew within 160 miles (250 km) of Mars.

Comets are balls of rock and ice left over from the early days of the solar system. So, they can be useful things to study because they can give us some clues and insight into the beginnings of the solar system, and where we and everything else came from.

Today’s the day, though. Earlier, it was instructed to crash into the comet, ending its mission. We’ve learned quite a bit from Rosetta over the years of its mission. So, here’s to everyone at the ESA for making it possible.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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