European Space Agency staff will be watching nervously this morning as their Rosetta orbiter releases a lander to attach itself to a comet more than five times the distance between the Earth and the Sun away.
Rosetta has been travelling through space since March, 2004. At 6am today, its lander, Philae, will detach from Rosetta and anchor itself to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Philae’s instruments will obtain the first images from a comet’s surface and make the first in situ analysis to find out what it is made of.
You can watch a webcast of the event live here, starting at 6am (AEDT) as the ESA team make all the necessary preparations:
It’s a 24-hour coverage, so confirmation of the actual landing won’t come until about 3am (AEDT).
If the landing is successful, the pair will then travel together, Philae on the comet surface, Rosetta in orbit, as the comet heads towards our Sun. If all goes well, Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to examine from close proximity how a frozen comet is transformed by the warmth of the Sun.
In December next year, the trio will circle the Sun and head back out into the Solar System.
We’ll keep you updated throughout the morning.
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