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Surprise! Rosetta sent back unexpected final comet image

Revisit the craggy surface of Comet 67P with a new last look from the Rosetta spacecraft.

This reconstructed image shows Rosetta's last view of the comet.

ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta's final image wasn't really its final image. 

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Sept. 30, 2016. It sent back what scientists thought was its final image before impact, a blurry look at the comet's surface. Turns out Rosetta had a secret.

Scientists analyzed the last data Rosetta sent back and discovered one last image hiding in the information. The transmission was interrupted, but there was still enough there to reconstruct a new last look showing the comet's rocky surface. The ESA highlighted the fascinating picture in a release today.

Rosetta captured the image from a distance of around 60 feet (18 meters) above the comet. It covers a small surface area of about 3 feet (1 meter) square.

The ESA discussed the discovery earlier this year in a video covering Rosetta's legacy. The image is not as high-quality as previous views since only about half of the usual image data made it back to Earth. What was previously believed to be the final image is still the last complete image the spacecraft sent back.

Rosetta launched back in 2004, arrived at its comet in 2014 and spent two years investigating 67P, teaching us about its shape, composition and behavior. 

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