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The European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is following the 67P comet, and according to recent images, they have just discovered it is actually two objects that form a contact binary, or double comet. Experts aren’t sure if the 67P comet split in two, or if the two objects have separate origins and came together later.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter has been following Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and recent images have discovered landing on it is going to be more difficult than originally thought. It turns out the comet is actually two objects in close contact forming what is known as a contact binary, or double comet.
Experts aren’t sure if Comet 67P split in two, or if the two objects have separate origins and came together later.
Because of the double comet shape, the European Space Agency will face special challenges later this year, when the landing robot Philae attached to the Rosetta orbiter is scheduled to land on the comet in November.
Rosetta is planned to enter the orbit of the Comet 67P on August 6th.
A statement from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research responded to the challenge saying: “Irregular, elongated, and structured shapes are not uncommon for small bodies such as asteroids and comets. Of the five cometary nuclei that have been visited by spacecraft in close flybys so far, all are far from spherical.”
The pictures captured by Rosetta’s Osiris Narrow Angle Camera are pixilated, so the images that were released to the press are an interpolation.
They will reportedly be put together and released as a movie in the near future.