The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission has brought the inhabitants of Earth up close to a fascinating comet. The Rosetta spacecraft has sent back a series of images showing the craggy beauty of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it soars through space.
This image was captured by Rosetta's navigation camera. It was taken on November 17 and highlights the irregular shape of the comet. Rosetta's lander Philae successfully touched down on the comet, but battery issues caused it to shut down, leaving Rosetta to carry on with the comet study.
ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Rosetta searches for Philae
The Rosetta mission's lander Philae made space history by successfully touching down on a comet. Unfortunately, the lander bounced and ended up lost and lodged in a place with not enough sunlight to recharge its batteries.
This image looks like it could have been taken in a barren desert on Earth, but it's actually a close-up look at the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This image was created as a mosaic stitching together images taken by the Rosetta spacecraft. The brightness has been adjusted to show off features that would otherwise be hard to see on the dark comet.
The comet the Rosetta spacecraft is following is really quite large. To give earthlings an idea of just how big the bundle of space rock and ice really is, the European Space Agency released a series of images showing the comet over large cities.
This particular image depicts Paris and what it would look like if Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was hovering right over the city. The comet is over 13,400 feet long and would stretch from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre museum.
While the Rosetta mission's Philae lander is sleeping, its mothership is still busy studying the comet and sending back data and images. This picture from November 26 is a four-image montage. When seen at higher contrast, it's apparent the comet is showing outflows of gas and dust.
When Rosetta arrived at its comet, one of the most fascinating details to emerge was the weird shape of the space rock, which has been described as looking like a butterfly or a kidney. This led to a considerable amount of thought going into finding a good landing site for the Philae lander, which successfully touched down, but failed to land in a sunny enough spot to charge its batteries.
When Rosetta sent Philae down to the surface of the comet, the little lander used its downward-facing camera to grab some images during the descent. The Rosetta team took two of those images and put them together to create a stereographic image. To get the 3D effect, you need to view the image while wearing classic red/blue-green 3D glasses.
All of the comet images we've seen from the Rosetta spacecraft have come back to Earth in black and white. This color image depicts the comet as a reddish object in space. More information on the image and whether or not it shows the comet's true colors is expected to be released on December 18 at an American Geophysical Union conference.