Astronomers have predicted that the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko would be active in March 2014, when it will reach the distance of 4.3 astronomical units (AU) from the sun.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Astronomical Unit (AU):
It is a unit of distance used in astronomy, especially within the context of solar system. It is equal to the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun, i.e. about 150 million km/93 million mi.
This comet is large ball traveling in space. It orbits the sun once every 6.6 years. Scientists started studying this comet in 2003 utilizing ESA’s Rosetta mission. They are studying its nucleus and activity during its movement.
Rosetta Mission is the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) project to study the Comet 67 P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko since 2003. This mission was originally started in 1993 to study the comet 46 P/Wirtanen. The project passed closely by two asteroids i.e. 2867 Steins (in 2008) and 21 Lutetia (in 2010). It went into the deep-space hibernation mode in June 2011 and the hibernation exit sequence of this project will be initiated in January 2014.
It refers to the point in the orbit of a planet or other astronomical body at which it comes closest to the Sun.
According to the predictions made by “the world’s best current telescopes”, the comet will reach a distance of about 4.3 times the distance between the earth and the sun in March 2014 and at that time; it would be active i.e. showing surface activity. The visible activity in the comet would start at a distance of about 3.4 AU.
Researchers have reported, “The comet’s morphology and surface brightness profile exhibit significant variations around the orbit, but the heliocentric lightcurve is very smooth, with a peak shortly after perihelion.”
Previously, the comet was active around November 2007.
“A physical model based on sublimation from the nucleus is used to fit the observed brightness of the comet, and suggests that 1.4% of the surface is active (sublimating water), while 0.04–0.09% of the surface is sublimating CO2. There is a peak around perihelion requiring an increase of the active area to ~4% of the surface,” Researchers wrote in the conclusions.
Comets are among the unpredictable objects in space. Scientists are still not clear about the processes that cause the unpredictability in comets. When the comets reach to certain closeness with the sun, its activity increase and the precise mechanism behind this activity is not clear. You can start your work on the comets’ movements and activities.
The Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko orbits the sun once every 6.6 years and during this time it travels between the orbits of Jupiter and the Earth. However, further research is required on this comet.
Rosetta mission – ESA
C. Snodgrass et al. (2013). Beginning of activity in 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and predictions for 2014–2015 Astronomy & Astrophysics DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201322020