On Aug. 6, 2014, the European Space Agency’s “comet chaser” Rosetta arrived at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after a decade of travel across the inner solar system. Now in the process of maneuvering into orbit around 67P’s 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) wide nucleus (via a series of triangular spiraling passes) Rosetta is returning some incredible images, the most recent showing the comet from a mere 65 miles (104 kilometers) away… and in 3D!
Captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) instrument on Aug. 7, the image above reveals some of 67P’s rugged surface around the “neck” joining the two sections of the contact binary comet. Check out that giant landslide and the cluster of building-sized boulders!
Below is a 3D anaglyph made from that same OSIRIS images and another one acquired 17 minutes earlier, creating a stereo version that is viewable with standard red and blue paper glasses.
|3D glasses needed to view this image in 3D|
Although images of 67P/C-G have been acquired by Rosetta’s NAVCAM more recently than Aug. 7, these OSIRIS NAC images have much better resolution — and the pictures will only get better as Rosetta moves closer to the comet. It’s truly amazing to be able to witness the exploration of another member of our solar system!
Rosetta and its Philae lander, which will be deployed to the comet’s surface in November, will stay with 67P/C-G as it travels toward the sun, evolving from an asteroid-like hunk of icy rubble to a tail-sprouting comet as it approaches. It will make its closest pass (perihelion) on Aug. 13, 2015, coming within 186 million km of the sun (1.24 AU) before heading back out past the orbit of Jupiter.