Rosetta probe spots Comet 67P being buzzed by boulder
Was it a random neighbourhood space rock? Or something breaking off the comet?
The European Space Agency (ESA) has spotted a boulder buzzing Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
The rock passed by on July 30th and as the .GIF below shows it headed off into space at decent speed.
The images below were captured by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera, which only managed to get three frames of the event.
The ESA's name for the .GIF “Boulder flying by comet” is actually quite eloquent, because the agency has advanced no theories about the object. The agency says it was between one and fifty metres in size and there's therefore no word on whether this is a piece of 67/P that's recently broken off or a random space rock that just happened to zip past the comet.
Rosetta and 67/P rounded the Sun on August 13th and the ESA hasn't posted much information about the pair's progress of late.
“Boulder flying by comet” © ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
We do know that the spacecraft and comet survived perihelion, their closest approach to the Sun, and are now heading back out into the depths of the solar system at the impressive rate of 34 kilometres a second. We await shots of the comet during perihelion with interest. ®