Two comets will be swinging around the sun in 2013, allowing for rare naked-eye appearances by the elusive balls of rock and ice. But 2014 and 2015 will be the real exciting years for space enthusiasts as the Rosetta spacecraft is set to land a probe on a comet for the first ever up-close inspection.
U-M Professor Mike Combi helped develop two devices on the spacecraft that will analyze the composition of these ancient “dirty snowballs”. Researchers hope that the contents of the comet will give hints about the origin of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago.
Editor’s Note: The comet’s radius is 1.25 miles
ABOUT THE PROFESSOR: Mike Combi is a Distinguished Research Professor of Planetary Science and Cometary Physics in the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences department at the University of Michigan College of Engineering . His research includes cometary X-ray observations and study of the excitation mechanism. In 2005, Asteroid 17061 Mikecombi was named in honor of his contributions to the study of cometary atmospheres.
I’m confused. Will the spacecraft be orbiting the comet, or will the spacecraft be orbiting the sun while holding a position adjacent to the comet?
The spacecraft will be orbiting around the comet while the comet approaches the Sun.