Comet Touchdown

The Philae lander has touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, marking the first landing on a comet. The Philae was part of the Rosetta mission launched by the European Space Agency. Philae took about seven hours to cross from Rosetta to the comet before it touched down and launched harpoons into the comet’s head to anchor itself. Armed with ten instruments, Philae will help scientists learn more about comets.

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Martian Close Encounter

Three NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars, the Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and MAVEN, were sent signals to remain in orbit on one side of Mars while comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passed within 88,000 miles of the planet. NASA feared that particles from the comet could endanger or damage the orbiters during the cometary flyby on October 20. The satellites were also used to gather data on the flyby, as were the rovers currently on the Martian surface.

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Comet Tempel Flyby

The Stardust-NExT probe flew to within 112 miles of Comet Tempel I on February 14, taking a series of photos of the comet. Comet Tempel had previously been visited by a NASA spacecraft in 2005, when Deep Impact collided with the comet. This is the first time a comet has been revisited after a complete orbit. Photos have shown that erosion has changed the face of the comet, but the impact crater left by Deep Impact appears to have partially healed itself.

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Visit to a Small Comet

Deep Impact passed within 700 km (435 miles) of Comet Hartley 2 on November 4, returning pictures of the comet’s head which show the object to be shaped like a bowling pin. Comet Hartley 2 is about 1.6 km (1 mile) long. Deep Impact took several thousand images during its fly-by. This is the second cometary fly-by for Deep Impact, which had a fly-by and dropped an impactor on Comet Tempel 1 in 2005.

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Smashing Jupiter

Anthony Wesley, an amateur astronomer from Murrumbateman, Australia noticed a strange marking on Jupiter and contacted NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which confirmed that Wesley had discovered the aftermath of an impact of some item on Jupiter’s atmosphere, the first time this has happened since Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter in 1994. NASA believes the impact may have been a comet, which left a black spot on Jupiter, but hasn’t confirmed it yet.

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