In August 2015 Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko reached its closest point to the Sun along its orbit. ESA's Rosetta spacecraft was there to monitor the comet's activity as it reached a maximum, its frozen ices warmed by increasing solar radiation, escaping into space as streams of gas and dust. Rosetta's work may now be complete, but the comet continues along its 6.4 year orbit around the Sun, which takes it beyond the orbit of Jupiter at its furthest. In three years time it will return to our skies again, and this time may even be visible through binoculars.
Colin Snodgrass of the Open University and ground-based observation campaign coordinator for the comet tells ESA Web TV how scientists are trying to match up what is seen in the wide views of the comet from Earth with the unique close-up images provided by Rosetta, and what astronomers are planning for future observations when it returns to our skies. With the comet making a closer pass to Earth than the last time, and at the same time being closest to the Sun, it will be brighter in our skies than during the Rosetta mission. Get your binoculars ready for late 2021!
This is an ESA Web TV interview filmed in Rhodes, Greece during the 49th Rosetta Science Working Team Meeting in May 2018. The video contains imagery from a range of telescopes (indicated within) along with images from Rosetta's OSIRIS camera (credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA – CC BY-SA 4.0).