Comet 67P has passed the closest point to the Sun in its 6.5-year orbit, with the European spacecraft Rosetta still in orbit around it. This landmark, called “perihelion”, occurred at 03:03 BST on Thursday, when 67P was 186 million km from the Sun – a distance that puts it between the orbits of Earth and Mars.
The Rosetta team has been studying the small, icy world as it warms up. It has released dust and gas, including a very bright jet seen on 29 July. Dramatic images of this outburst – the brightest jet seen so far by Rosetta’s cameras – were released on Tuesday by the European Space Agency, Esa.
“Usually, the jets are quite faint compared to the nucleus and we need to stretch the contrast of the images to make them visible – but this one is brighter than the nucleus,” said Carsten Guettler, a member of the Osiris camera team from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. The material released by comets, as they become more active on approach to the Sun, is the reason for their characteristic tails when they appear in the night sky. This particular jet, caused by frozen ices turning to gas and pouring out into space, was bright and brief. Three photos, each separated by 18 minutes, capture it appearing and fading. Source: Rosetta: Comet 67P makes closest approach to Sun