After a 10-year journey through the solar system, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has become the first-ever probe to rendezvous with a comet.
The craft will stay with the comet for more than a year “as they swing around the Sun and back out towards Jupiter again,” the ESA said in a statement.
Instruments on the spacecraft will send back images and details of the comet’s composition and temperature, providing astronomers with clues about the origins of life.
“After ten years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometres, we are delighted to announce finally ‘we are here’,” ESA director Jean-Jacques Dordain said.
In November, Rosetta is set to make history again: It will deploy a small lander onto the surface of the comet.
The animation depicts the comet as Rosetta approached it during a one-week period in August 2014. It was made by knitting together 101 images taken by the Navigation Camera on board the spacecraft. The first image was taken on Aug. 1 at a distance of 516 miles and the last image was snapped on Aug. 6 during the probe’s closest approach to the space rock at a distance of 68 miles.
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