The European Space Agency (ESA) recently released the best image of comet 67P, which was taken by Rosetta probe during a flyby on Feb.14 when the spacecraft was no farther than 3.12 miles (6 km) from the icy “space duck” (as 67P is nicknamed).
The picture depicts the bottom region of the “icy dirtball,” while features larger than 11 cm are clearly visible. Also, as the Sun was standing behind Rosetta when the picture was taken, the satellite’s optical instruments captured the probe’s shadow on the comet’s surface.
I like it because you get this nice juxtaposition of Rosetta against the alien landscape,”
said Dr Matt Taylor, one of the scientists involved in the ESA’s Rosetta mission.
The mission team also explained that the image caught by Rosetta shows a boundary area between two regions that had been dubbed Ash and Imhotep. Imhotep was a high priest of the Egyptian sun god Ra and one of the first engineers, architects, and physicians mentioned in the ancient world’s records.
But this is not the single name linked to Ancient Egypt’s history. The lander is also named after the Rosetta stone, an inscribed stone with bilingual text, which had helped Jean-François Champollion decipher the hieroglyphs. Also, Rosetta’s imaging system, which took the picture, is called Osiris after the Egyptian god of the afterlife.
According to the most recent data from the lander, comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko seems to slowly wake up as it gets nearer to the Sun. As a result, the European probe will not be able to get so close to it as it did late last year.
Rosetta’s engineers have already reported difficulties in steering the lander through space because of the emissions of dust and gas coming from the increasingly warmer comet. Currently, Rosetta doesn’t plan to get more close, but stay at a safe distance and perform occasional close in flybys such as the one on the Valentine Day.
During this February’s flyby, Rosetta managed to position itself at a “zero phase” angle having the Sun exactly behind it. The angle allowed Rosetta to grab a picture of its own shadow, while also flattened quite a lot the terrain of comet 67P, which in reality is much craggier than seen in the picture.
According to ESA team, comet 67P is reportedly located at about 204 miles or 328 million km from the Sun, and is racing toward the star at a speed of 51,500 miles or 83,000km/hour.
Also, the comet is expected to reach its closest point to the Sun in mid-August.
Image Source: ABC News