Calling all space enthusiasts! Here’s your chance to participate in Europe’s breathtaking Rosetta comet mission with a ringside seat for history’s first-ever attempt to land on a comet and be among the first to see the images directly at the mission control in Germany.
The European Space Agency (ESA) and its Rosetta mission partners have announced the details of their contest to name the mission’s comet landing site for the probe’s piggybacked Philae lander and win a trip to follow the landing in person from ESA’s mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, on Nov. 12, 2014.
You’ll need to work fast to come up with a name that strikes the fancy of the judges, since the deadline for submissions is Oct. 22, 2014.
The contest is generally open to citizens or permanent residents of ESA and EU (European Union) member states and the United States of America. Complete details below.
Just days ago ESA made the final decision that Philae will touchdown on the “head” of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, at a spot called Site J, on Nov. 12.
“As the location of the first soft landing of a human-made object on a comet, the site, currently identified as Site J, deserves a meaningful and memorable name that captures the significance of the occasion,” said ESA in a statement.
All the inspiration you need is shown in the high-resolution imagery and mosaics captured by Rosetta, featured at the mission website and some shown herein, including the best views yet of the comet taken from a distance of barely 10 kilometers.
Following a thorough science, engineering, and hazard assessment of the merits of Site J, the European Space Agency (ESA) gave the green light days ago for its Rosetta orbiter to deploy its Philae lander to the primary site on the “head” of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as the location for the history’s first attempt to touchdown on a comet.
The contest is open “to participants who are a citizen of or a permanent resident of an ESA Member State, an ESA Cooperating State, an EU Member State, or the United States of America,” according to ESA.
The rules from ESA are simple:
“Any name can be proposed, but it must not be the name of a person. The name must be accompanied by a short description (up to 200 words) explaining why this would make the ideal name for such an historic location.”
Complete details can be found here.
The competition runs until 23:59 GMT on Oct. 22, 2014.
ESA will announce the winner on Nov. 3 on the main Rosetta web page (www.esa.int/rosetta) and social media channels and various space agency mission pages involved with the mission.
Since rendezvousing with the comet on Aug. 6, 2014, after a decade-long chase of over 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles), a top-priority task for the science and engineering team leading Rosetta has been “Finding a landing strip” for the Philae comet lander.
Events are moving fast because the team has been in a race against time to first select a suitable landing zone quickly and then develop the complex landing sequences, since the comet warms up and the surface becomes ever more active as it swings in closer to the Sun and makes the landing ever more hazardous beyond November.
The imagery is critical to finding and characterizing a touchdown zone that’s both technically safe and scientifically interesting.
Site J is located on the smaller of the two “lobes” of the utterly bizarre comet and is shown in the high-res ESA mosaic shown above. The touchdown zone is circled and is approximately 500 meters in diameter.
The two-image mosaic of Philae’s primary landing site was taken by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on Sept. 14, 2014, from a distance of 30 kilometers. The image is about 1 km across.
The backup landing site was located on the “body” of the comet.
Comets are leftover remnants from the formation of the Solar System. Scientists believe they delivered a vast quantity of water to Earth. They may have also seeded Earth with organic molecules—the building blocks of life as we know it.
Any finding of organic molecules will be a major discovery for Rosetta and ESA and inform us about the origin of life on Earth.
To learn more about comets be sure to read the story about the close flyby of Oort cloud comet Siding Spring with Mars on Oct. 19 here.
Stay tuned here for continuing developments.
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