Celestial 'snow' flies in wondrous Rosetta comet GIF

It looks like it's snowing on the surface of Comet 67P, but there's more to a gorgeous new space GIF than meets the eye.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

You'll never stand on the surface of a comet, but here's how it might look and feel.

Twitter user @landru79 is obsessed with space and created a spectacular GIF of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using still images captured by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft. 

The GIF has the feel of an old-time movie. It lasts for just a moment, but leaves an indelible impression and a glimpse of what it might be like to land on an alien space object.

The Rosetta mission wrapped up in 2016 when the orbiter crashed -- on purpose -- into the comet's surface, but scientists are still studying the data it collected and the ESA continues to update the image archives. 

Mark McCaughrean, the ESA's senior adviser for science and exploration, shared @landru79's GIF and offered up some explanations of what we're seeing. What looks like snow flying around is actually a combination of stars in the distance and dust blowing around the comet's surface.

McCaughrean also identified the stars in the background as coming from the constellation Canis Major.    

Comet 67P is a pretty dusty place. Rosetta's imaging system picked up a great look as it shot out a dust jet in early 2015. The mission is also famous for its lost lander Philae, which bounced and landed in shadows when it tried to touch down on the comet in 2014. 

The GIF, which has gotten thousands of likes on Twitter and has been shared across other sites like Reddit, is a reminder of the magic of Rosetta and how it unveiled the secrets of a distant comet hurtling through space.

See Rosetta's final descent to Comet 67P (pictures)

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