The Oddly Shaped Comet!

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko was made famous by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission (2004 – 2016). However, it was originally discovered by two amateur Soviet astronomers in 1969 and gained particular fame for its odd shape – resembling a rubber duck! Check out some of the interesting facts and images below about our solar system’s space duck!

Fast Summary Facts About The Rubber Duck Comet

  • Discovered: Klim Churyumov & Svetlana Gerasimenko, 1969
  • Name: Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
  • Maximum Apparent Magnitude: 12
  • Nucleus Size: 4.3 x 4.1 Km
  • Aphelion: 5.68 AU
  • Perihelion: 1.24 AU
  • Eccentricity: 0.64
  • Inclination: 7.04°
  • Rotational Period: 12 hours, 24 minutes

Important Facts About Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

  • The comet is made up of two distinct ‘mountain-sized’ blocks which are joined by a narrower ‘neck’ of material. Scientists believe the comets current shape is the result of a low-velocity collision of two objects which subsequently became joined.
  • As with all comets, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P/CG for short) is losing material such as gas and dust with each orbit as the surface heats and the gases evaporate away into space; this forms the tail of a comet!
  • Astronomers believe 67P/CG likely formed in the Kuiper Belt and was flung towards the inner solar system at some point. Subsequent encounters with Jupiter’s large gravity field successively changed its orbit. These encounters continue to this day.
  • The Rosetta mission which left Earth in 2004, arrived at the comet in 2014 and subsequently became the first mission to land a space probe on a comet! The little lander was called Philae!
  • One interesting science finding from studying 67P/CG was that the composition of water vapour according to the Rosetta spacecraft, is very different from that found on Earth. This implies that water probably didn’t come to Earth in its early history from comets originating in the deep Solar System such as the Kuiper Belt, Scattered Disc or Oort Cloud.
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