“On August 3rd, the Rosetta spacecraft’s narrow angle camera captured this stunning image of the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After 10 years and 6.5 billion kilometers of travel along gravity assist trajectories looping through interplanetary space, Rosetta had approached to within 285 kilometers of its target. The curious double-lobed shape of the nucleus is revealed in amazing detail at an image resolution of 5.3 meters per pixel. About 4 kilometers across, the comet nucleus is presently just over 400 million kilometers from Earth, between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. Now the first spacecraft to achieve a delicate orbit around a comet, Rosetta will swing to within 50 kilometers and closer in the coming weeks, identifying candidate sites for landing its probe Philae later this year.” (APOD)
What a glorious achievement for the European Space Agency (ESA). Their spacecraft Rosetta has reached its target after a 10 year journey, and will now orbit the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It has already produced some stunning images, of which the one above will undoubtedly become the most iconic. More images can be found over at Slate, as well as more information about the mission (Slate). Nature has a nifty little animation of the orbit that Rosetta took around the comet, and New Scientist has a few more close-up images of the comet. The BBC have an amusing / terrifying image of just how big comet 67P actually is (approximately 4km by 3.5km). Finally, APOD have a time lapse video of Rosetta’s approach to the comet.
It’s all very exciting, and what’s better is that this is just the beginning. Over the coming months and year, Rosetta will be probing the comet for more information, and even attempting to put the lander Philae onto the surface with a giant harpoon. That will be worth waiting for! Onwards!