World

Rosetta space probe sees bright flares, landslide on comet

A man sits on a bench after spending the night in a makeshift camp set up inside a gymnasium following an earthquake, in Amatrice, central Italy, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. The civil protection agency set up tent cities around the affected towns to accommodate the homeless, 1,200 of whom took advantage of the offer to spend the night, civil protection officials said Thursday. In Amatrice, some 50 elderly and children spent the night inside a local sports facility. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

A man sits on a bench after spending the night in a makeshift camp set up inside a gymnasium following an earthquake, in Amatrice, central Italy, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. The civil protection agency set up tent cities around the affected towns to accommodate the homeless, 1,200 of whom took advantage of the offer to spend the night, civil protection officials said Thursday. In Amatrice, some 50 elderly and children spent the night inside a local sports facility. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)  (The Associated Press)

The European Space Agency's Rosetta probe has captured images of a bright burst of light on the comet it is orbiting, apparently caused by a landslide.

The dramatic light flashes were recorded Feb. 19 and accompanied by rising temperatures and sharp increases in dust, gas and plasma released from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Eberhard Gruen of the Max-Planck-Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, said Thursday that a landslide on the comet's surface was most likely responsible.

The flashes would have been generated by light reflecting from dust particles kicked up by the landslide.

The European Space Agency plans to crash-land Rosetta on the comet's surface Sept. 30, more than two years after it started orbiting the comet.

Data collected by Rosetta and its lander, Philae, have improved scientists' understanding of comets.