Marvelous view … and a mystery

By | November 13, 2009

The OSIRIS camera on the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft captured

this view of Earth from 393,000 miles (633,000 kilometers) away on Thursday.

Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft is making its final flyby past Earth on its way to an asteroid and a comet – a close encounter that should yield beautiful pictures of our home planet, and perhaps the answer to a cosmic mystery as well.

Rosetta was launched five years ago and has already made two gravitational flybys past Earth, plus one past Mars. Friday's flyby represents the final boost, slingshotting the probe past the asteroid Lutetia for a quick look next year, and then pushing it along to the main event at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.

When Rosetta arrives at its destination, it will send a small lander down to the comet's 2.4-mile-wide (4-kilometer-wide) icy nucleus and spend two years in orbit, studying Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it approaches the sun. Rosetta's 11 scientific instruments will record how the comet is transformed by the sun's warmth.

Time for more marvels

Rosetta has been snapping marvelous pictures of the sights it has encountered over the past five years, ranging from our round blue planet, the moon and a 3-D Mars to the asteroid Steins, a diamond-shaped space rock topped by a monster crater.

via Marvelous view … and a mystery – Cosmic Log – msnbc.com.

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