Rosetta: 1,000 Kilometers and Closing In on a Comet

The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 2 2014 1:57 PM

Rosetta: 1,000 Kilometers and Closing

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from 1,000 kilometers. Click to encomenate.

Photo by ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Getting closer ...

This shot was taken by the Rosetta spacecraft on Aug. 1, 2014, when it was just over 1,000 kilometers (630 miles) from the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It has twice the resolution as the picture I posted a few days ago (I enlarged the image a bit), and we're about a week away from Rosetta entering orbit, 100 kilometers from the dirty ice ball—photos taken at that point will have 10 times the resolution of this one.

Advertisement

It looks very much like we're starting to see rubble on the surface—the white spot to the upper right is casting a shadow, and it looks to be about 100 meters across or so. Update, Aug. 2, 2014 at 18:15 UTC: The "rubble" in the above NAVCAM image doesn't appear to be in the OSIRIS image below, so they look like they're image artifacts (sometimes you get oddities in images that aren't real due to cosmic rays and other events). I shouldn't have jumped to a conclusion... as I say in the first update below, I'll hold off speculating further ...

I can't wait for the higher-res shots!

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
OSIRIS camera image of the comet also taken from a distance of 1,000 kilometers.

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

Update, Aug. 2, 2014 at 18:00 UTC: And no sooner do I post this that I find out that a higher-res OSIRIS camera image has been released! It's amazing.

We're seeing lots of detail here, though it's difficult to say just yet what exactly is going on. The surface is definitely rough, though it has smoother areas, much like those seen in previously visited comets. I won't speculate here, since we'll know better very very soon. Read Emily Lakdawalla's post at The Planetary Society for more.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Uh-Oh. The World’s Oceans Have Broken Their All-Time Heat Record.

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

How to Keep Apple From Sharing Your iPhone Data With the Police

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

A Simple Way to Keep Apple From Sharing Your iPhone Data With the Police

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.