European scientists are preparing to celebrate an unusual midsummer festival – on a comet that is currently 165 million kilometres from Earth. The comet, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, is set to reach the closest point to the Sun in its 6.5-year orbit on Thursday and Europe’s robot probe Rosetta is poised to provide scientists with a ringside view.
The spaceship has already been in orbit around Comet 67P for a year and has studied dust and gas as they have started to erupt from its surface as it has approached the Sun. On Thursday, when the comet reaches perihelion, its closest point to the Sun, that activity will reach its peak.
“Perihelion is an important milestone in any comet’s calendar, and even more so for the Rosetta mission because this will be the first time a spacecraft has been following a comet from close quarters as it moves through this phase of its journey around the solar system,” said Matt Taylor, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta project scientist. Source: Scientists to get ringside view as comet 67P reaches closest point to Sun