The Rosetta spacecraft orbiting the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko provided the data for this animation of the sudden appearance of a jet of ice and dust from the comet.
As comets near the Sun, these jets can combine to produce long and beautiful tails that stream across the inner Solar System. Rosetta is providing invaluable information about the mecahnics of this phenomenon.
The animation is the result of combining three stills. The first frame shows nothing unusual, the second shows a sudden strong jet shooting off the 67P’s surface only 20 minutes later, while the third frame, taken 20 minutes after that, shows but a slight remnant of the once-active jet.
Rosetta is scheduled to make a slow crash onto Comet 67P’s surface in late 2016.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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