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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Rosetta’s Final Resting Place Has Been Chosen

By Phil Plait

On Sept. 30 at approximately 10:30 UTC (06:30 EDT), the Rosetta mission will come to an end.

After many days of slowly approaching the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko—sending images and data back to Earth the whole way—it will settle down onto the surface of the bizarre little worldlet, what the European Space Agency is calling a “controlled impact.” And at that moment, the spacecraft is expected to stop transmitting.

It’ll have done what it came to do: observe a comet up close, investigate the environment around it, and send a lander down to the surface of a comet for the first time in human history.

That’s quite a docket. And it performed these tasks amazingly.

Sure, the situation with the Philae lander could’ve gone a lot better. But it did send back a passel of data and a handful of amazing images, and even in failure it succeeded in teaching us more about the surface of a comet.

The final resting place of the Rosetta spacecraft itself has been chosen as well: Ma’at, an area that has some “active regions” sending out plumes of gas. It’s located on the smaller of the comet’s two lobes (the head of the rubber ducky, about halfway from the neck up to the top). It’s good choice; if active regions are still doing their thing, we’ll get some truly amazing close-ups of cometary outgassing, the phenomenon that creates the fuzzy head and long, long tail of a comet.

The ESA hasn’t released too many details just yet, but they expect to have more soon. I’ll let you know when I hear.

Follow Rosetta on Twitter for current info, too.

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