An astrophotographer has discovered a moon containing the comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko orbiting, the target of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission.
The Rosetta mission started in 2004 and reached 67P in 2014. It not only produced a lot of interesting data and thrills, but also sent many pictures of the comet back to Earth. These photographs continue to provide interesting results.
Comets are icy rocks of the solar system that normally have oblong orbits. As they approach the sun, they warm and release gas and dust to create an atmospheric "coma" and sometimes a tail. 67P is one such example, a two-lobed object that has a diameter of up to 2.5 miles on its longer lobe and a diameter of 1.6 miles on its shorter lobe. In its orbit, it approaches the paths of Earth and Jupiter. The Rosetta mission was the first to land a man-made object on a comet (although the landing was stony). The mission also discovered the molecular oxygen of 67p that exists on Earth and that could date back to the early solar system.
Rosetta watched as the comet spit out gas and dust as it neared the Sun, producing a coma from the summer of 2015. This image shows a 1.80 m section of the comet which appeared to be ejected during the outgassing event in October 21, 2015. The astrophotographer Jacint Roger found the spot when he dismantled the Rosetta Image Archive, to create one of his gifs. Scientists examined the images and traced the object as it circled Rosetta until October 23. According to an ESA publication, the object is the largest such part yet found around the comet.
ESA researcher Julia Marín-Yaseli de la Parra has dubbed objects such as these "churymoons," the press release said.
ESA researchers are interested in the size and shape of these debris and whether they will change as the comet orbits. They hope to find out if the properties of the dust change due to processes inside the comet, or if the dust is the same since the comet first formed, according to a research report.
Many space missions from Marsrovern to Rosetta have sent countless images back to Earth that you can access for free. You can also create gifs or graphics from this visual data. Maybe you even discover something interesting.