June 13, 2021

Photos from Rosetta’s Valentine’s Day comet close-up


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Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft — six months into its mission at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko — made its closest flyby of the comet’s boulder-strewn nucleus Saturday, capturing photos and measurements to help scientists unravel how the duck-shaped body is evolving on its path around the sun.

Rosetta flew just six kilometers — about 3.7 miles — from the comet’s surface Saturday. Scientists will be analyzing the full results of the encounter for months, but the European Space Agency released the first imagery from the close-up Monday.

The images come from Rosetta’s navigation camera, which ground controllers use to help navigate the solar-powered probe around the vicinity of the comet. Photos from Rosetta’s OSIRIS science camera should be released about two weeks after the flyby.

A four-image mosaic of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta's navigation camera at a distance of 8.9 kilometers (5.5 miles) from the surface. The image is centered on the comet's Imhotep region, located on 67P's large lobe. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
A four-image mosaic of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta’s navigation camera at a distance of 8.9 kilometers (5.5 miles) from the surface. The image is centered on the comet’s Imhotep region, located on 67P’s large lobe, showing boulders, dune-like deposits and steep topographic features. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
One frame from Rosetta's navigation camera shows sharp terrain on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
One frame from Rosetta’s navigation camera shows sharp terrain on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
A four-frame composite image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken 31.6 kilometers (19.6 miles) from the comet's center as Rosetta flew away from the nucleus after Saturday's flyby. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
A four-frame composite image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken 31.6 kilometers (19.6 miles) from the comet’s center as Rosetta flew away from the nucleus after Saturday’s flyby. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


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