Rosetta: A voyage to a comet and to our origins

Seminar Date: 
17 Jan 2017 - 14:00
Michael Küppers

Asteroids and comets are the “leftovers” of the formation of the planets. They are like the blocks that formed the planets of our solar system and therefore contain information about our origins. Particularly comets, which spend most of the time far from the sun in a cold environment, are the objects that suffered least changes since the formation of the solar system.

The Rosetta mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) is the first spacecraft that investigated a comet in great detail. It consists of an "orbiter" that accompanied the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (“Chury”) in its orbit around the sun for 2 years and a lander, Philae. Rosetta accompanied Chury on its passage around the sun for more than two years, while Philae landed successfully in November 2014. Afterwards, the Rosetta orbiter followed the comet through its closest approach to the sun and back outwards. At the end of the mission, with power becoming scarce, the spacecraft risked closer and closer orbits, until finally landing and joining Philae on the surface of the nucleus. 

The presentation will focus on the progress made by Rosetta on major topics in cometary science: The formation of the building blocks of the solar system, the possible delivery of water and organic molecules from the outer solar system to early earth, and the processes involved in the initiation and maintenance of the cometary activity that creates the coma and tail of the comet.