Rosetta mission, the space probe launched in 2004, finished performing a very detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Sept. 30. The spacecraft finished as planned, with a controlled impact on the comet it had investigated over the last two years. The control center in Darmstadt, Germany, lost its signal during the probe's impact.
NASA's Kepler observed the comet 67P during the last month of Rosetta's activity, closely analyzing its core and tail which were not visible from Earth. Images of the comet, taken every 30 minutes, created an animation showing a period of 29.5 hours from Sept. 17 to Sept. 18. On its K2 mission, Kepler focused on the core and tail of comet 67P from Sept. 7 to Sept. 20, thus offering a background perspective observed from a significant distance. At the same time, Rosetta's close-up focus in high-resolution during the descent on the comet complements Kepler's, offering a full picture of its activity.
The approximately two weeks of study allowed Kepler observe the comet passing through its field of sight. The diagonal strip shows the spacecraft going from top right to bottom left, while the white dots around it represent stars and other formations explored during K2's 10th campaign.
A comet releases a tail of gas and dust during its journey, and the reflected sunlight allows an observation of it's activity level. The amount of mass lost every day as the comet 67P traveled through the solar system will be determined after a scientific analysis of Kepler's data.
NASA's Ames Research Center currently handles the Kepler and K2 missions for its Science Mission Directorate, while the Jet Propulsion Lab from Pasadena, CA, handled its development.
Rosetta first reached the comet on Aug. 6, 2014. During its activity there, it performed maneuvers to be captured on the orbit. The first successful landing of Rosetta's module, Philae, was conducted on Nov. 12, with its battery running down only two days afterwards. After this, the module was shortly responsive in June and July 2015, but because of the diminishing solar power, the probe's communication system with the lander was shut down on July 27, 2016.
On Sept. 30 2016, Rosetta ended its mission with a controlled land on the 67P's Ma'at region.
"As well as being a scientific and technical triumph, the amazing journey of Rosetta and its lander Philae also captured the world's imagination, engaging new audiences far beyond the science community. It has been exciting to have everyone along for the ride," explained Mark McCaughrean, ESA's senior science advisor.