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The Rosetta Mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

presented by Thomas Madigan

7:30 PM Thursday, September 18, 2014
The Ross School Tennis Center
20 Goodfriend Dr


After almost 11 years in transit and 4 gravitational assists from the Earth and Mars, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe has arrived at the Jupiter-family comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Arriving on Wednesday, August 6th, the probe went into a 100 km-high orbit around the comet, both of which are now in common orbit around the sun. Depending on the comet’s activity, Rosetta will come as close as 10 km to the comet’s nucleus over the course of the mission. With a high orbital eccentricity (the orbit’s deviation from a perfect circle) of 0.640, a perihelion of 1.2 AU and an aphelion of 5.68 AU, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is now in common orbit around the sun with Rosetta.

Rosetta is a cornerstone mission in that it will chase down, go into orbit around, and land on the object of interest. It will study 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with a combination of remote sensing and in situ measurements. The mission has 2 phases, the ongoing orbital phase and the landing phase. During the ongoing orbital phase, the spacecraft will examine the comet up close with its suite of 11 instruments. During the landing phase, the orbiter will release the Philae lander which carries an onboard suite of 10 instruments for imaging and sampling the comet’s nucleus. The mission will track the comet through perihelion, its closest approach to the sun, examining its behavior before, during and after.

Providing an introductory retrospective of comets, sometimes regarded as harbingers of doom, Prof. Madigan will discuss this historic mission, a mission that includes study of the comet from the surface of its nucleus!

Professor Madigan holds a Baccalaureate degree in Physics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a Master’s Degree in Astronomy from James Cook University, the preeminent institute for science in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition, he is NASA/ JPL Solar System Ambassador, an Associate Member of the American Astronomical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. Born in Manhattan, he is a native New Yorker. His life-long love for astronomy and the natural universe was cultivated by his father at a young age. He built his own backyard observatory at the age of 13, produced the optics for an award-winning telescope by the age of 18 and has taught astronomy and physics at the college level for the city and state universities of New York as well as several well-known Planetariums.

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