Around closest approach, Rosetta took a good look at Earth for observations of its atmosphere and magnetosphere, imaged urban regions, and looked for meteors from space. Shortly before midnight, Rosetta will turn to observe the Moon until about 11:00 CET tomorrow, 14 November. Following this, on 15, 16, 18 and 20 November, Rosetta will observe the Earth-Moon system from a distance, on its outbound trajectory.
Rosetta will be back in our neighbourhood, and will swing by Earth for the last time in November 2009. But before that, as it crosses the asteroid belt, Rosetta will grab the opportunity to study asteroid Steins during a fly-by in September 2008.
Tune in early tomorrow morning: we will be publishing pictures and results as soon as they become available, throughout the day on 14 November.
This animation shows Rosetta’s closest approach to Earth during its second swing-by of our planet on 13 November this year. Here the fly-by is shown as it would look if seen from below.
This month’s Earth swing-by is Rosetta’s third major step on its 10-year journey to comet 67/P-Churyumov-Gerasimenko. A trajectory correction manoeuvre successfully performed last month prepared ESA’s comet chaser for the upcoming encounter, and now Rosetta is right on track.
In swinging by Earth, the spacecraft will have gained the right amount of energy from Earth’s gravity to precious save fuel for later on.
Closest approach will take place on 13 November 2007 at 21:57 CET, at which time Rosetta will speed past at 45 000 km/h (about 12.5 km/s) relative to Earth. At this time, Rosetta will be 5301km above the Pacific Ocean, south-west of Chile, at 63° 46’ south and 74° 35’ west.
During this Earth swing-by, a few experiments both on the orbiter and the Philae lander will be activated for calibration, scientific measurements and imaging. Rosetta will first point to Earth and then to the Moon for the observations.