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September 5, 2003 03:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2003-26

Hubble Assists Rosetta Comet Mission

September 5, 2003: Results from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope played a major role in preparing ESA's ambitious Rosetta mission for its new target, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G). For the first time in history, Rosetta will land a probe on a comet and study its origin. Hubble precisely measured the size, shape, and rotational period of comet 67P/C-G. The Hubble observations revealed comet 67P/C-G to be a football-shaped object of approximately three miles by two miles in size---large enough to provide a landing site for the Rosetta mission probe.

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Q & A: Understanding the Discovery

  1. 1. What is the Rosetta mission?

  2. Though telescopes have provided close-up views of a comet's nucleus, this mission would be the first to land a space probe on a comet and analyze its composition. Comets are the most primitive objects in the solar system, the frozen, leftover building blocks of our solar system. By analyzing a comet's composition, astronomers hope to gain insight into the birth of our solar system. Rosetta, a European Space Agency mission, will launch its space probe in February 2004. The probe is scheduled to rendezvous with comet 67P/C-G in 2014.

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Photo Credit: NASA, ESA and Philippe Lamy (Laboratoire d'Astronomie Spatiale)