OSIRIS images of Rosetta's comet resolve structures at 100 meters pixel scale

July 25, 2014
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko imaged on July 20th, 2014 from a distance of approximately 5500 kilometers. The three images were taken 2 hours apart. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

In new images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta's onboard scientific imaging system OSIRIS, surface structures are becoming visible. The resolution of these images is now 100 meters per pixel. One of the most striking features is currently found in the comet's neck region. This part of 67P seems to be brighter than the rest of the nucleus.

As earlier images had already shown, 67P may consist of two parts: a smaller head connected to a larger body. The connecting region, the neck, is proving to be especially intriguing. "The only thing we know for sure at this point is that this neck region appears brighter compared to the head and body of the nucleus", says OSIRIS Principal Investigator Holger Sierks from the Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany. This collar-like appearance could be caused by differences in material or grain size or could be a topographical effect.

Even though the images taken from a distance of 5500 kilometers are still not highly resolved, the scientists feel remotely reminded of 103P/Hartley. This body was visited in a flyby by NASA's EPOXI mission in 2010. While Hartley's ends show a rather rough surface, its middle is much smoother. Scientists believe this waist to be a gravitational low: since it contains the body's center of mass, emitted material that cannot leave the comet's gravitational field is most likely to be re-deposited there.

Images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken on July 14th, 2014 by the OSIRIS imaging system aboard ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft have allowed to calculate this three-dimensional shape model of the nucleus. The full rotation of the nucleus around its spin axis shown here emphasizes the bi-lobate structure already observed with the camera. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Whether this also holds true for 67P's neck region is still unclear. Another explanation for a high reflectivity could be a different surface composition. In the next weeks the OSIRIS teams hopes to analyze the spectral data of this region obtained with the help of the imaging system's filters. These can select several wavelength regions from the reflected light allowing to identify the characteristic fingerprints of certain materials and compositional features.

At the same time, the team is currently modelling the comet's three-dimensional shape from the camera data. Such a model can help to get a better impression of the body's shape.

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI. Rosetta will be the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the Sun, and deploy a lander to its surface.

Explore further: Comet-chasing probe closes in on target

Related Stories

Comet-chasing probe closes in on target

July 2, 2014

A comet-chasing spacecraft on a mission to land on a fizzing ball of ice and dust later this year has begun a crucial slow-down maneuver to avoid flying past its target.

Image: Rosetta bids farewell to Lutetia

July 8, 2014

(Phys.org) —This ethereal image shows a stunning sliver of large main-belt asteroid Lutetia from the viewpoint of ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, taken as Rosetta passed by on its 10-year voyage towards comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Recommended for you

What happens when your brain can't tell which way is up?

October 13, 2015

In space, there is no "up" or "down." That can mess with the human brain and affect the way people move and think in space. An investigation on the International Space Station seeks to understand how the brain changes in ...

Hubble sees an aging star wave goodbye

October 12, 2015

This planetary nebula is called PK 329-02.2 and is located in the constellation of Norma in the southern sky. It is also sometimes referred to as Menzel 2, or Mz 2, named after the astronomer Donald Menzel who discovered ...

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Jul 26, 2014
Here is the hole 3D animated model of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko http://www.esa.in...of_comet

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.