Catch a comet

Europe's intrepid comet-chaser, Rosetta, is on its way to Comet 67P. What will it find there? The team who engineered the technology and scientific instruments to explore a comet told us more in a Twitter Q&A for Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2014.

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  1. Comets, the extraordinary and occasional visitors from the outer Solar System, have origins and compositions shrouded in mystery. The Rosetta spacecraft is on a 10-year mission to land on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014, delivering a scientific laboratory to unveil secrets of the solar system that span 4.6 billion years. Leah, Natalie, Dan and Ian were on hand today to answer questions about sending a spacecraft to land on a comet. 
  2. Here's the 'Catch a comet' team standing by...
  3. The first question up was about one of the most widely observed comets of the 20th century, Comet Hale–Bopp.
  4. As comets mostly reside in the deep freeze of the outer reaches of the solar system until they travel towards the Sun, @tanzeyklng asked what effects this journey has on a comet.
  5. And there's nothing (particularly) unusual about the water on a comet either, although you might not want to drink it. 
  6. @EmmaSTennant asked the team whether they expected to find signs of life on a comet and what it would mean for us if they did. Although not everyone took the question seriously.
  7. The 'Catch a comet' team had a question for everyone who was listening: 'How far had the Rosetta spacecraft travelled?' Quite far, apparently. 
  8. The team tweeted a sneak preview of what visitors might see at their 'Catch a comet' exhibit for Summer Science 2014, which was met by a Twitter-style representation of a comet-chasing space probe. 
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