IT MIGHT be 400 million kilometres from earth, but Launceston astronomer Martin George has close links with a Ukranian-discovered comet.
The European Space Agency spacecraft Rosetta will this year become the first to conduct close-up studies on the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko - discovered photographically by one of Mr George's colleagues.
The first landing on the comet will take place in November when a small lander descends to the surface.
Mr George said although several comets have been examined by spacecraft, this will be the first mission that is not simply a flyby.
"We can learn a lot about the conditions of the Solar System by studying comets," Mr George said.
"Having a lander on the surface to actually examine the material firsthand is very important.
"A remarkable feature of this comet is that it appears to have the shape of a toy rubber duck."
Ukrainians Klim Churyumov - with whom Mr George is still in contact - and Svetlana Gerasimenko are credited with spotting the comet in 1969.
Mr George said studies of the Churyumov-Gerasimenko would help people understand why missions to examine comets are important.
"Such studies ultimately take away some of the mysteries about comets," Mr George said.