Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


Rosetta Comet Outburst Captured

Posted: August 13, 2015

Rosetta Comet Outburst Captured A short-lived outburst from comet 67P. Image Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has been witnessing growing activity from comet 67P as the comet approaches perihelion (its closest point to the sun during its orbit), according to recent NASA press release.

On July 29, while the spacecraft orbited at a distance of 116 miles from the comet, it observed the most dramatic outburst to date. Early science results collected during the outburst came from several instruments aboard Rosetta, including the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer (DFMS). The DFMS is part of the spacecraft's Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument.

Parts of the DFMS and ROSINA were designed and built by SPRL engineers, including Ken Arnett, Bruce Block, John Maurer, Steve Rogacki, Ron Rizor, Frank Lee and Dave Boprie.

AOSS Professors Tamas Gombosi, Mike Combi and K.C. Hansen are co-investigators for ROSINA.

When the outburst occurred, the spectrometer recorded dramatic changes in the composition of outpouring gases from the comet when compared to measurements made two days earlier. As a result of the outburst, the amount of carbon dioxide increased by a factor of two, methane by four, and hydrogen sulfide by seven, while the amount of water stayed almost constant.

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