Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
[ E-mail ]

Contact: Karina De Castris
European Space Agency

Rosetta up close Earth flyby and photo competition

Rosetta orbiting Earth
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

ESA's Rosetta comet-chaser will briefly return home on 4 March 2005, almost exactly one year after launch. Star watchers in Europe should be able to see it with binoculars or telescopes if the sky is clear.

Anyone capturing images of Rosetta passing Earth is invited to enter ESA's 'Rosetta Up Close' photo competition. Details of the contest, rules and prizes will be posted on the ESA web site. Rosetta is approaching Earth from an area in the sky between the constellations Leo and Sextans. It should first become visible to large amateur telescopes around 26 February 2005.

After sunset on 4 March, it will appear in the south east. It will then head south west, moving faster until it disappears below the horizon around 23:00 CET. Unfortunately, it will be too dim to be seen with the unaided eye.

After passing over Europe, Rosetta will make its closest approach to Earth at about 23:10 CET. It will then be in daylight and flying over Mexico at a height of about 1,900 km.

This is the first of four planet flybys (three with Earth, one with Mars) that Rosetta will carry out during its 10-year journey to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

In order to reach the comet, Rosetta has to bounce around the inner Solar System like a cosmic billiard ball. Each time it sweeps past a planet, it picks up speed.

After passing Mars on 26 February 2007, Rosetta will head back to Earth for a second visit in November 2007.