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After 10-Year Chase, Space Probe Catches Comet

Spacecraft to be 1st to hook up with a comet in yearlong trip around sun
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 6, 2014 7:33 AM CDT
After 10-Year Chase, Rosetta Catches Comet
Photo provided by European Space Agency shows a very raw image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that was taken on July 14, 2014, as the space probe approached the comet.   (AP Photo/ESA)

(Newser) – The thrill is often in the chase itself—though for European Space Agency scientists, there's definitely a thrill in actually catching the object they've been chasing. The Rosetta space probe, which was sent hurtling through space a decade ago to hunt down comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko—aka the "rubber duck comet"—has finally caught up with its prey, reports CNN. "It's fantastic!" the ESA's director tells the BBC. "After 10 years, five months, and four days traveling toward our destination, looping around the sun five times and clocking up [nearly 4 billion miles], we are delighted to announce finally 'we are here.'"

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The space probe's planned mission is the reason behind all this excitement: For more than a year, Rosetta will become the first spacecraft to tag along in a comet's orbit as it completes its trip around the sun, enabling scientists to closely monitor the comet's makeup and observe firsthand processes such as the formation of a comet's tail, according to CNN. In November, researchers aim to propel a space lander onto the comet's surface—no small feat, considering the comet is only about 2.5 miles in diameter and moving at a clip of about 85,000 mph, notes the Wall Street Journal. Space enthusiasts can follow Rosetta's path on the spacecraft's official blog. (Read more Rosetta stories.)

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