alexa Rosetta’s first peek at the comet’s dark side

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Rosetta’s first peek at the comet’s dark side

Since its arrival at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Comet 67P), the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft has been surveying the surface and the environment of this curiously shaped body. But for a long time, a portion of the nucleus - the dark cold regions around the comet’s South Pole - remained inaccessible to almost all instruments on the spacecraft. Due to a combination of its double-lobed shape and the inclination of its rotation axis, Rosetta’s comet has a peculiar seasonal pattern over its 6.5-year-long orbit. Seasons are distributed unevenly between the two hemispheres. Each hemisphere comprises parts of both comet lobes and the “neck.” For most of the comet’s orbit, the northern hemisphere experiences a long summer, lasting over 5.5 years, while the southern hemisphere undergoes a long, dark, and cold winter. However, a few months before the comet reaches perihelion - the closest point to the Sun along its orbit - the situation changes, and the southern hemisphere transitions to a brief and hot summer.

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