All About Space

‘Comet Intercepto­r’ to explore an undiscover­ed space object

- Words by Passant Rabie

A new mission will intercept an undiscover­ed comet en route to Earth's orbit, the first of its kind to observe a pristine interstell­ar object as it enters the inner Solar System.

Three spacecraft will take snapshots of the comet from different angles, creating a three-dimensiona­l profile of the object and characteri­sing its surface, compositio­n, shape and structure.

The ‘Comet Intercepto­r’ was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) on 19

June as the latest ‘fast’ or F-class mission – in reference to its quick implementa­tion. The mission's proposal was submitted to the ESA in

March, and it is scheduled to launch in 2028.

"Pristine or dynamicall­y new comets are entirely uncharted," Günther Hasinger, ESA's director of science, said in a statement. "[They] make compelling targets for closerange spacecraft exploratio­n to better understand the diversity and evolution of comets."

The mission is unique in that it will observe a comet that has not yet interacted with the solar wind environmen­t – and it will launch before its target has been discovered. By observing the comet as it enters the

Solar System it can provide informatio­n on the evolution of comets as the object will likely contain material that has not yet been altered since the birth of the Solar System.

 ??  ?? The comet won't yet have interacted with the solar wind
The comet won't yet have interacted with the solar wind

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