More than 800 scientists are gathering this week in Cascais, Portugal, for the 2014 European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC). One of the highlights of this year’s meeting is a special session dedicated to Rosetta, taking place today.
It is just over one month since Rosetta arrived at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Since then, the spacecraft has been edging closer to the nucleus, moving from a distance of 100 km from the comet surface on 6 August to less than 50 km today. Over the course of the next few weeks, the spacecraft will move even closer to the comet as it prepares to dispatch the lander Philae to the surface in November.
From the perspective of the science operations teams, this is a period of the highest activity of any ESA mission, with numerous parallel operations ongoing to plan activities for the near (pre-landing and landing) and long term (post landing). For the instrument teams, this has also been a period of intense activity as they pore over the data coming in from their instruments, eager to see what is revealed by these first measurements from the vicinity of the comet. In addition, several of the teams have been contributing to the time-critical landing site selection process with the analysis and delivery of essential scientific measurements. A shortlist of five candidate landing sites has already been drawn up and the primary site will be announced next week.
This morning, at the dedicated Rosetta session at EPSC, the teams have the opportunity to share some of the first results and recent updates with scientists from the planetary science community.
We expect to hear more about the first results that have been reported from the imaging and spectroscopy instruments: Alice, MIRO, OSIRIS and VIRTIS. We’ll also get updates from MIDAS, GIADA and COSIMA about their investigations into dust at the comet (follow the links for recent news about these instruments; for recent images from both OSIRIS and NAVCAM, click here).
RPC has been investigating the comet’s plasma environment and ROSINA has been monitoring density variations as well as measuring some of the rare chemical species in the coma – both teams will present the status of these studies.
In the afternoon, attention will turn to Rosetta’s lander Philae. We will hear from the Philae lead scientists about the unique science that is anticipated when Rosetta’s lander makes contact with the comet nucleus, as well as about the landing site selection activities that are currently on-going.
Stay tuned to the blog for updates during the day.