Space Probe Chasing 'Rubber Duck' Comet

Rosetta probe closing in on rare double comet
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2014 10:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – Space may have found itself a mascot: a double comet some say looks an awful lot like a giant rubber duck. The European Space Agency's Rosetta probe has been gaining on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since reawakening this year, hoping to send a lander to its surface. Now that it's a bit closer—about the distance from Germany to Hawaii, NASA notes—images snapped by the spacecraft's onboard scientific imaging system "faintly remind me of a rubber ducky with a body and a head" and reveal the comet is "unlike any other comet we have ever seen before," a project manager says.

That's because the comet is actually a "contact binary"—a twofold comet formed when astronomical bodies touch, explains Wired. It's not clear how these two bodies combined—or when, as the comet is 4 billion years old—but the discovery is likely to complicate the landing mission. Researchers will be able to learn more about the comet as Rosetta enters its orbit on Aug. 6, ahead of a landing on Nov. 11. (Read more Rosetta stories.)

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