Right now, a newly discovered comet named Lovejoy is just a faint light in the the constellation Cancer. But astronomers predict that by the end of 2013 and into the beginning of 2014, as Lovejoy comes a bit closer and becomes visible to the naked eye, there could be a point where it’s a brighter point in the sky than the moon.
The Rosetta project is a joint effort between NASA and the ESA to land a probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in January 2014. But landing on a comet is not like landing on a planet. For one, we’re not entirely sure whether it will be solid and rocky, slick and icy or soft. So NASA and ESA had to build a lander that could accomodate for a variety of landing surfaces.
Normally, when anything crashes into a star, you can pretty much hang it up for that whatever it is. So when astronomers saw a comet named Lovejoy plunge into the Sun’s corona, the assumption was that was the end of the comet.. until the comet came out the other side of the Sun. A giant furnace, where even atoms are stripped down to their base components and yet somehow a comet survived.
If you ever doubted that working somewhere like NASA would be one of the coolest jobs ever, consider that they’ve proposed a harpoon to shoot at the heart of a comet to try and extract its secrets. One day, a buch of astronomers were sitting around like “How can we get material from the heart of a comet?” and another was like “Let’s shoot one with a harpoon!” And so that’s what they’re gonna do.
Way across the galaxy, around the star Eta Corvi, NASA’s Spitzer telescope has spotted what astronomers are pretty sure is a bombardment of of comets through the Eta Corvi dust cloud, pummeling the planets in their way. The assault resembles the Late Heavy Bombardment of Earth during its infancy, and this bombardment would have happened at the same time it was happening on Earth.
NASA’s been describing this as the sound of a comet, but in reality, a comet wouldn’t make any sound out in the vacuum of space. But as NASA’s Deep Impact probe passed through the debris field of Hartley 2, it was bombarded by tiny pieces of comet stuff and it sent back a recording.