Rosetta:The comet takes shape, one pixel at a time

July 4, 2014, European Space Agency
This animated sequence comprises 36 images taken with Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 27-28 June 2014, and shows comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko spinning with a period of 12.4 hours. On 28 June, about 86 000 km separated the comet and spacecraft. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta's scientific imaging system OSIRIS is slowly but surely resolving comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in its narrow angle camera (NAC), giving the first tantalising hints of its shape.

The comet covers about four in this image, which was taken on 28 June from a distance of about 86 000 km. The accompanying movie, comprising 36 images taken with the NAC on 27-28 June, shows the spinning with a rotation period of 12.4 hours.

The comet appears – as expected – rather fuzzy from this distance and seemingly covers a slightly larger area than two by two pixels. This is due to the physical effects of the way light is spread inside the imaging system, and is not associated with the comet displaying a coma, for example.

These imaging effects won't be noticeable once Rosetta is closer to the comet and able to capture the high-resolution images we have all been anticipating. Indeed, there isn't long to wait before we see what these four pixels are hiding: within the next two weeks the comet will cover an area of 20 x 20 pixels in the NAC.

Today, 3 July, Rosetta is at a distance of about 43 000 kilometres from comet 67P/C-G, and by the end of the weekend will be less than 36 000 km – equivalent to the altitude that geostationary satellites orbit Earth.

Yesterday, Rosetta completed the fifth in a series of ten rendezvous manoeuvres required to ensure the spacecraft's arrival at the on 6 August.

Almost there!

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, seen in Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 28 June 2014, from a distance of about 86 000 km. The comet covers about four pixels in this image and appears, as expected, rather fuzzy from this distance. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Explore further: How big is Rosetta's comet?

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5 / 5 (1) Jul 06, 2014
That will bring some fresh and exciting news to in the next few days and for many weeks to come. This spacecraft, that has been traveling for 10 years now, carries a small lander that will send pictures from the comet surface and is going to make analysis of its composition. The spacecraft itself is going to follow closely the comet on its journey around the sun. I really hope everything goes as planned.

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