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WHAT??? Sorry, that was written by our cat as she did a Riverdance on the keyboard, and I left it on ‘cos I thought it was funny, and probably a catchier title than I could come up with at you’re-having-a-laugh o’clock in the morning…

Anyway, the ESA team releasing the navcam images from ROSETTA have knocked it out of the park this time with an absolutely stunning set of pictures showing fascinating detail on the surface of 67P. ROSETTA is now so close to 67P that the 4x navcam image mosaics can no longer show the whole of the comet’s nucleus, and can’t be stitched together seamlessly to make a single image either, but they do allow us wonderful “zoom in” views of the features on its surface. Here are a couple of the latest images, as posted on the ESA blog page…

ESA_Rosetta_NAVCAM_141018_A1

Did you recognise “Cheops” up at the top there? The big boulder the OSIRIS team showed us – and little else – in their recent image release? That meandering fissure/crack/whatever the hell it is to the rock’s lower left is intriguing isn’t it?

And then there’s this one,,.

ESA_Rosetta_NAVCAM_141018_D1

Oh, there’s SO much going on in that image! At the bottom, that straight feature is bound to have the mission scientists scratching their heads… a close-up seems in order…

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…and look up there to the top right… those very round-looking features… craters? Vents? Collapsed pits? Let’s take a closer look…

crop1

PLEASE click on that to enlarge it, it took a lot of work! ;-)

What’s fascinating about that image is that there are two very distinct types of feature huddled up close together – jagged-edged crater-like features, and what look like raised “pancake” -like mounds which look like they might be “craters in waiting”… are those vents, about to blow? Oh, to see an OSIRIS image of just one of those…

Actually, we’ve seen something like that before -on the nucleus of another comet, Tempel 1, which was visited by not one but two NASA probes, STARDUST and DEEP IMPACT…

PIA13859

PIA13859 crop

Really can’t wait to see this area in more detail…

Anyway, those are the latest pics. The blog is going to be quiet for a few days, but when we come back we’ll have a good catch up session, ok? In the meantime, keep following what’s happening with ROSETTA by visiting the ESA “Comet Watch” blog each day…

Dunes? On a comet?

Another quartet of ROSETTA navcam images was released by ESA today, and they show the most fascinating detail on the surface of 67P. Before we take a look at some of that detail, here’s ESA’s own mosaic made from the four images…

Comet_on_18_October_NavCam

As you can see, the rotation of the comet between frames makes it quite impossible now to make all 4 images into a single, smooth mosaic. But that mosaic can still be enhanced to bring out detail in the jets…

Comet_on_18_October_NavCam enh

Those jets are really blasting out now aren’t they? Oh, if only ROSETTA had a camera that could see the surface of 67P in much more detail than the probe’s navcams can! Why, then we’d probably be able to see the sources of those jets!

Oh, hang on, it does. I forgot for a moment, I’m sorry…

Zooming in on the most recent images reveals some VERY interesting features indeed. Here, take a look…

ESA_Rosetta_NAVCAM_141018_C crop

And this one…

cliffs 1

Look, there’s that “crack” we saw a few weeks ago… is that a sign that the two halves of the comet are in danger of splitting, or is it just a fissure or a fault that was produced when the ground beneath slumped or gave way, and is now filling with dust? Intriguing…

But this one… oh boy, this one really caught my eye. Feast your eyes on this, my friends…

ESA_Rosetta_NAVCAM_141018_D circle

Is that…? Are they…? Yes. It is, and they are…

Dunes. On the surface of a comet. Let’s take a closer look…

crop 4

Really? Dunes? On a comet? What could have caused them? Maybe material from over the horizon, coming out of those mysterious vents, is blown over this area and piles up? Or maybe they were caused by the ground here vibrating? Whatever made them, it’s something new, and something fascinating. I never, ever thought I would see dunes on the surface of a comet. We’ve seen them elsewhere before… On Mars, for example…

mars dunes

…and on Titan…

TitanT8radarflyby270508

…and here on Earth, too…

1320243813_4880342-sit_and_watch_the_sun_go_down_with_your_friends_Morocco5Checaga-sand-dunes-rusticrambles.com_

…but on a comet? Well, that’s new… Here, then, are the dunes of 67P…

dunes2

A Tale of Two Comets

Mars-orbiters-comet-siding-spring-close-call

If you’re interested in comets, it must feel like Christmas for you right now. ESA’s ROSETTA probe is not only sending back beautiful images of comet 67P but is about to drop its Philae lander onto the surface too, and another comet, Siding Spring, is going to “buzz” Mars today, passing the Red Planet at what is a sphincter-tighteningly close distance in astronomical terms. This is a huge story for people “into” space, and the media are picking up on it now too, so if you’re one of those sad, misguided people who believes space exploration and science is boring, and a waste of money, I’d avoid TV news programmes tonight, and probably stay off the internet too; it’s going to be owned by us space geeks today…!

At Mars, the international fleet of spaceprobes now studying the planet will all be trying, one way or another, to study and make measurements of the comet as it whooshes past, either taking pictures or trying to detect it with their suites of instruments. Here on Earth, professional telescopes in every country will turn towards Mars at some point today, hoping to see something, and amateur astronomers across the globe are also training their cameras and telescopes on the planet and comet, watching them slowly come together. It’s a worldwide astronomy festival, bringing people from all countries together, with a common goal – to try and see something very rare, and very special, and record it. Within a few hours camera shutters will start clicking, and clicking, and clicking…

And it’s a pretty safe bet that within hours of being taken, those photos will be online for everyone to see.

Look at all these “assets” NASA will be using to try and catch Comet Siding Spring racing past Mars…

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It’s also a pretty safe bet that within a matter of hours, certainly within a couple of days of being taken, the images recorded by NASA’s hardware will be released to the world for everyone to share and enjoy, isn’t it? In the case of the Mars rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity, those images are going to be coming back so quickly, and released so freely, we may even get to see them before many of the mission scientists do, thanks to the time difference.

And that’s fantastic, isn’t it? Lots of things are described as a “once in a lifetime event” – pop concerts, royal weddings, etc – but a comet swooshing past Mars, almost close enough (in spacey terms) to reach out and touch? Now THAT’S a once in a lifetime event, and here, sitting at our computers, we’ll all be able to follow whatever happens as it happens, or very soon after. Why? Because the scientists behind these missions all “get” that it’s important to share data, especially images, with the public, not just because they actually PAY for their missions, through their taxes, and not only because they know it’s the right thing to do in this modern age, but because they WANT to share their excitement and experiences with the public. They’re obviously still excited by what they do, still in love with the universe, and still want to share that love with others.

Compare that selfless, joyous, generous attitude to the selfish, miserable, miserly, attitude shown by the ROSETTA mission’s OSIRIS camera team, who still, despite repeated pleas from space enthusiasts and the media, refuse to share their incredible high resolution images of the surface of comet 67P. They have taken hundreds, but released barely a handful, and those only grudgingly, when they absolutely had to. In contrast to the brilliant ESA team responsible for releasing pictures taken by the probe’s navcams, it’s clear the OSIRIS team hates releasing their pictures, and have what can only be described as contempt for the people “out here” wanting to see them. Too harsh? No. Absolutely not. And that was proved when they released this image…

Boulder_Cheops

…showing a single boulder tucked away in the top right corner of a frame filled with otherwise blank, empty space. That image is actually a crop of an area of a larger image, and that boulder has other boulders around it which they could easily have shown too. So releasing that was a deliberate, conscious, snarling, contemptuous, two fingered “F**k you!!!” to all the people asking to see more OSIRIS images. Either they thought no-one would notice, or they didn’t care if anyone noticed. Either way, some might say it was a rather childish and pathetic thing to do. I imagine they had a laugh about it that night, maybe even felt pretty smug about it, but seriously, it made them look very, very small and petty.

But wait. I keep saying “they” and “them”, talking in the plural, but that’s probably unfair. I shouldn’t tar the whole OSIRIS team with the same brush, I’m sorry.  I’m sure many of them actually want to share their gorgeous pictures with the world, because they love science, are excited by what they’re seeing, and are proud of their success. This must be frustrating for them, too.

No. This probably comes down to one person. Somewhere, sat behind a desk, in an office within fortress MPS, someone – an individual – is personally stopping the OSIRIS images being released to the world. That one person has the final say. That one person has the power to show the world comet 67P in all its gnarled, tortured, spiky, boulder-strewn glory. That one person has had access to all the OSIRIS images taken so far, has seen them all on their monitor, has shaken their head again and again at the bewildering structures they show…  and then decided that the public, who paid for them to be taken, who are desperate to see them, who have been told by ESA for *years* how stunning ROSETTA’s images would be, has no right to see them.

Shame on them.

But why? Why are they doing this? What possible reason could they have?

Well, there are two possibilities. Firstly, maybe they do genuinely believe it’s The Right Thing To Do. Maybe they honestly think that by holding back the images for 6 months they are protecting their scientists, and their careers, by ensuring that no-one else can beat them to the priceless science which will result from the pictures. That’s actually an admirable thing, and I would respect them for that IF they were releasing SOME of the images which simply look stunning but do not contain anything revolutionary. It is simply not possible that every single OSIRIS image taken shows something so new, so paradigm-shifting, so scientifically explosive that it can’t be given to the public right now. Whoever is sitting on the images could easily, easily release some which had been lowered in resolution, but which still showed things never seen before, without any risk of harm to their own career or the careers of their team. But they choose not to. Why?

The other explanation is that they simply do not want to share their images with the world, and simply do not care what the rest of us think, or want. They don’t think we’re worthy of them, and don’t think they owe us anything. Not a damned thing.

And that doesn’t just make me flaming mad, it makes me incredibly sad too.

Sad because, once, who knows how many years ago, the person sitting on the OSIRIS images, like Smaug curled up on his horde of gold, was actually once one of us – someone fascinated by science, the universe and how it works. They were once a starry-eyed kid, probably sat in a school library when they should have been outside kicking a ball around or chasing their friends, pouring over the gorgeous images in its astronomy books, reading about stars and planets and comets and other wonders. They once stood in their garden, or in their nearest park, or on top of a hill, clutching a star map, looked up at the starry sky, fell in love with it, and realised they wanted to know more about it…

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They went through school, college, and university, learning all they could, gathering qualifications, still besotted with the universe, determined to dedicate their life to unravelling some of the mysteries of the cosmos and share their answers with the world. They got a job which allowed them to explore other worlds through the unblinking eyes of some of the most sophisticated cameras ever built, and see wonders never before seen by human eyes, as they had always dreamed of.

Jeez, what happened to that person?

If they’re reading this, and I know my blog *is* read by people on the ROSETTA mission, I have a question for them: at which point did you decide that, having worked your ass off to reach an amazingly powerful and privileged position – to be capable of taking and then sharing with the world the most stunningly beautiful images of a comet ever taken in the history of Mankind – you would personally stop people seeing those images?

What happened to you? What turned you from that starry-eyed space mad kid into the image Scrooge you are now?

As I’m writing this, images of Comet Siding Spring approaching Mars are being posted online, almost live. Taken by amateur telescopes in Australia and across the parts of the world where Mars is visible, they show something remarkable, something literally amazing. The people taking these photos could keep hold of them, process them, make them look prettier, write papers based on them, but no, they’re putting them online so quickly I can barely keep up. They are happy for the world to see them, and through them to share in this momentous day. It’s a wonderful thing. I feel all warm and fuzzy, and very very grateful to be seeing images of an event so special, so rare, they will still be being marvelled at in a thousand years time, when brave men and women are starting bold new lives on worlds orbiting other stars. It really is that historic.

Meanwhile, on someone’s hard drive(s) in an office in Germany, images of another comet, which are even more breathtaking, even more historic, are sitting uselessly in folders, imprisoned there by one person. Some of those images could be released now, right now, and within a few hours would be all over the internet, inspiring people around the world in the same way the images of Siding Spring will do in the months and years to come.

It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely bloody ridiculous.

Seriously now, whoever is in charge of releasing the OSIRIS images – yes, you, if you’re reading this – stop ****ing about and let some of them free. You can do that without harming any careers, or losing any science, you know you can, just as you know it’s the right thing to do.

And if you don’t know that any more, if real life as a scientist has jaded and dulled you so much that you are happy to just keep those images to yourself without  feeling any obligation to the rest of us, sat here in our living rooms, offices, classrooms and bedrooms, then please, I ask you, think back to how you felt when you were that kid in the library, or in the park, or on top of that hill, newly-besotted with the universe, just embarking on that love affair with science. Remember that? Well, you have the power to make others feel that same way by sharing your lovely images with the world.

Use it.

You’re going to land **there**????

Over the past couple of days more images of Philae’s landing site, “Site J”, have been released, allowing us our clearest and closest view yet of the area yet. They have also given us a stark reality check about how hard it is going to be to land Philae safely.

Here’s one of the most recent images released by ESA…

Philae_s_primary_landing_site_mosaic v2

,…which is actually a mosaic of two separate OSIRIS images. Philae is due to land in the middle of that area on November 12th. Now, at that scale it looks fairly flat. A bit bumpy here and there, true, but nothing too dangerous right? That’s because you really can’t get any sense of scale from an image like that, you have nothing familiar to compare the boulders, ledges and scarps with, do you? I mean, looking at that image, are those boulders a metre or a hundred metres across? You just can’t tell. No, to be able to really appreciate the challenge facing Philae you need to be able to mentally grasp the scale of things at Site J, and that means adding something to that image you *know* the size of, and can then compare everything else to.

I’ve been trying to do that, unsuccessfully, but astronomy writer Richard Berry has created something which really brings home the scale of features at Philae’s landing site. By adding a 100m long scale bar, and a 75m long 777 airliner to the scene, he shows us just how “busy” the site is…

10703707_10203930105465767_19434078671361279_n

Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Woah…. look at that! THAT brings it home now, doesn’t it? Let’s take a look at the size of some of those rocks scattered around the landing site…

scale rocks

<<< gulp >>>

So, with this in mind, how big would Philae be in comparison? And how dangerous is the little lander’s landing site?

Well, here is photo showing ROSETTA under construction, with Philae nestled inside… note her teeny size compared to the people around the probe…

philae  c

Okay… so, how big is Philae compared to the boulders and other features shown in the latest images of Site J..?

I’ll show you. But warning – you might want to sit down before you take a look at the next image..,

THIS big…

crop philae rocks

Oh… my…

crop philae rocks crop

I feel a bit weak at the knees, don’t you? :-(

I think we’ll look at something else!

Today ESA released its latest set of four navcam images of 67P, and again they offer us some fascinating views of the surface of the comet. Here are my latest “tour” photos…

crop1

crop2

Every day ESA offers us new wonders doesn’t it? Full credit to the Outreach and media teams who, through the release of these navcam images, and the excellent ROSETTAS blogs, are making sure people with an interest in the mission are kept informed about what’s happening and allowed to “feel a part” of the mission.

I’ll end this post with a look back at an image released a couple of days ago which I didn’t have time to post at the time. It’s another “selfie” of ROSETTA with 67P in the background, and it’s beautiful…

Rosetta_mission_selfie_at_16_km

…and a closer look at the comet by itself…

67P

…and in less than a month’s time Europe will attempt Mankind’s first ever landing on that comet.

I know…

Europe’s “Apollo Moment” Approaches…

Big news today for everyone involved in and following the ROSETTA mission to Comet 67P – after much deliberation, Landing Site “J” has been confirmed as the primary landing site for ROSETTA’s “Philae” lander, and on November 12th the European Space Agency will attempt Mankind’s historic first landing on a comet here

Philae_s_primary_landing_site_mosaic v2

That’s my sharpened and enhanced version of an image released today accompanying the official press announcement , which you can find here…

Landing Site J Confirmed

And here’s a sharpened and enhanced crop of the central part of that image, zooming on on Philae’s landing site…

close up J

I can only imagine the thoughts and fears running through the minds of the Philae and ROSETTA teams as they look at these images. There’s so much at stake on the 12th, when little Philae drifts away from ROSETTA and then begins to fall down to the surface of 67P, SO much. This is truly Europe’s Apollo Moment. Just like the Moon landings, nothing like this has ever been attempted before, and it will be a long, long time before anything like this is ever attempted again. Not even NASA has tried to do this, it’s so hard, so ridiculously hard.

Make no mistake about it, this is genuinely history making, and it may not work.

What is he saying??? Of COURSE it will work! They ALWAYS pull this stuff off! No. “They” don’t. Sometimes missions fail, and Philae’s may fail, cruelly, when she’s so close to her goal. There’s a very real possibility that Something Will Go Wrong on Nov 12th. Philae might not even detach from ROSETTA – a computer command may go unheard, a mechanism might fail, a line of software might be faulty – and might just stay there, clutching at ROSETTA for dear life, like a parachutist refusing to jump out of the plane. Or Philae might detach just fine, only for something to wrong when she lands. She may land in a pit of cometary quickdust and sink into, like a baby mammoth in a tar pit, it before she even has time to cry for help. Or she may hit a boulder and be smashed to pieces, her remains, shiny as the fragments of Christmas tree baubles, left scattered over the dark, cold ice. Or she may land just fine, only for her radio to fail, leaving her stranded on the surface, healthy and hearty, but mute, or deaf, or both. That would be the cruelest fate of all.

But…

If everything goes according to plan, on November 12th Philae will fall away from the albatross-winged probe which held her inside her arms and carried her safely halfway across the solar system, past asteroids and worlds, through a decade of cold and darkness, and drop down towards that 4km chunk of ancient, gnarled ice and dust as black as squid ink which has been tumbling around the Sun for countless mlilennia, and set down there, exactly as planned, in some sweet, safe place amongst the boulders and scree fields, between the crumbling ledges and the dust-covered slopes. And then, soon after, with the world watching, she will send back the first images ever taken on the surface of a comet, images which will feature in a whole generation of astronomy books.

And the best thing of all is we will all be there too. We’ll be able to follow events on our computers, tablets and phones (on our phones!!! Isn’t that insane! People will be following the landing on their phones, sat at work, or on a bus, or as they sit in their gardens! When ROSETTA was launched no-one on the planet HAD an iPhone! There was no such thing as Twitter!) as they unfold, and even as the ROSETTA team are cheering in Mission Control, hugging each other, slapping each others backs and punching the air with delight, triumph and relief, the first picture sent back by Philae will flash around the globe, to feature on TV news broadcasts and be posted on every space enthusiast’s blog, forum, Twitter feed and Facebook page, each time shouting out to the world “Look what we did! Look what Mankind did! We landed on a comet! A COMET!!!”

That will be a helluva thing, won’t it? I’ve taken the day off work so I can sit here, with my laptop on my knee, drinking in the whole thing. I don’t want to miss a moment of that day, and my heart will be in my mouth – when my mouth isn’t full of tea and chocolate biscuits, of course – until Philae’s fate is revealed.

If Philae lands safely, Europe will have done something truly spectacular, something that NASA, the Russians and everyone else will marvel at. And they will deserve it. The ROSETTA mission is exploration in its purest form, a mission to Know Somewhere New, and everyone in Europe should be proud that their space agency was even brave enough to try such a sphincter-tighteningly frightening thing.

But if something goes wrong on the 12th – and we really, truly, honestly must accept that possibility exists – and Philae fails, it’s important everyone remembers that Philae is really the icing on the cake of a mission which has already been one of the most successful in the history of space exploration. Since leaving Earth ROSETTA has sent back breathtaking images of Earth, and Mars, flown by and studied asteroids, and rendezvoused with a comet in deep, deep space. Since arriving at 67P ROSETTA has sent back stunning pictures which have revolutionised our image and understanding of comets. The science ROSETTA’s instruments has already done will keep astronomers busy for a generation, and lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the nature of the solar system’s most enigmatic members. So if Philae meets some terrible doom on or above the surface of 67P it will be awful, of course, but no-one should consider the ROSETTA mission itself a failure. ROSETTA’s primary mission was to reach 67P and study it as intensively as possible, AND try to land Philae on it. So whatever happens on the 12th ROSETTA will already have been a stunning success, and when the 12th turns to the 13th there will still be many exciting months of work ahead for the ROSETTA team, as the probe accompanies the comet on its journey to, around and away again from the Sun. We’ll see 67P waking up, bursting to life, maybe even splitting in two, and then falling quiet again before ROSETTA’s mission ends. If that prospect doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, then nothing will.

So, Philae’s landing site is confirmed. It’s “J”, and we are now less than a month away from what will go down in history as one of the most thrilling days in the space age. It’s important to understand just how hard it will be to land on 67P. This really is ESA’s version of a Mars rover landing, or, as I said, a Moon landing. This truly is Europe’s Apollo Moment. Whatever happens on the 12th, ESA will never be the same again, nor will science. It’s that important.

So, best wishes to everyone on the ROSETTA mission. You’ve already done incredible things, shown us incredible sights, and carried out incredible science. If Philae lands safely on the 12th we will cheer and shout and cry with you, and set out on a new adventure beside you. But if it doesn’t, know this: we are proud of you now, and will be proud of you whatever happens on that day.

Now go, and catch that comet!

A world of wonders…

While the OSIRIS team continues to horde its images, doing a quite frighteningly convincing impression of Smaug sitting on his pile of gold, the good people at ESA are doing their very best to keep the public and the media excited by the ROSETTA mission to 67P, by releasing images taken by the probe’s navcam as often as they can, with limited resources and people. These images are released to the waiting world on Twitter, Facebook, and on the ROSETTA “Comet Chaser” blog, where ESA Outreacher extraordinaire Emily Baldwin offers interpretations and answers questions whenever a new image appears. I think it’s very important that the ESA team is given full credit for their hard work here. In stark contrast to the OSIRIS team, which just seems determined to lock itself away in its wizard’s tower and selfishly keep their images to themselves, and quite obviously don’t care if that frustrates and disappoints the people who actually paid for their camera to get to the comet in the first place, the ESA team are working extremely hard to ensure that people who want to follow the mission can do so.

In fact, to be honest, if yesterday’s cropped and crudely messed about with Blurry Boulder image is the best the OSIRIS team can bear to part with, maybe they should just keep everything under wraps until next year, because it was rubbish, an insult to the intelligence of all the people following the mission and to the European Space Agency itself.

But anyway, today ESA put out another quartet of gorgeous navcams…

Comet_on_8_October_NavCam

As you can see, there’s no real chance now of these quartets joining up accurately to make one single image, but really they don’t need to, they’re still gorgeous in their own rights. And, of course, they allow us to zoom in on features on the comet’s surface and isolate, enhance and then drool over them. Here’s my latest tour…

crop1

See that big rock over on the right? The largest in the group? That’s Cheops…

crop5b

Now THAT’s an intriguing image isn’t it? Some very interesting features on there… Really wondering what *this* is, for example…

crop 9

And this vista is just… astoundingly beautiful, don’t you think..?

crop4

But I think my favourite area this time is this one…

crop8b

…and look at the bottom there…

crop8b2

Hmmm… something going on there, for sure…

Now the weekend beckons, and we may well not see any new images until Monday, but that’s ok, the ESA team releasing these images deserves a break too! In the meantime, a personal THANK YOU from me to anyone and everyone involved in making sure *some* images of 67P are released. It’s much appreciated.

Close-up on Cheops

If you felt a strange disturbance in the Force while you were sat at your desk yesterday, it wasn’t due to a distant planet being blown up, or a young Jedi going over to the Dark Side. It was because, finally, FINALLY, the OSIRIS team released one of their images. No, really, they did! Some time yesterday morning, flaming torches held high, they went down into the caverns constructed beneath their HQ,  hauled open the twenty foot thick vault door which protects their precious horde of images from the attention of the world, and carefully selected one to share with us. Here’s an exclusive pic of the inside of the OSIRIS vault…

RaidersoftheLostArk

And what was the picture they chose to finally share with us? Was it a jaw-dropping portrait of one of the vents in the neck of the comet, spewing out gas and dust? Was it a close up of one of the layered rock formations which loom over the landscape like a fortress in Mordor?? Was it a stunning portrait of one of the comet’s craters, with crumbling walls and screes of debris????

No. It was this

Boulder_Cheops

Yes, that’s right. Out of all the images they have available, they released to the waiting world a picture of a single boulder.

And that boulder wasn’t even in the middle of the frame; it was tucked away in one corner of the image, with the rest of the frame showing just the comet’s flat bare, dusty surface.

Unbelievable. They must think we came over on the last banana boat.

Where is this rock? Here, I’ll show you…

Aug 4

Comet_details2

Many other people are celebrating this, and saying thank you, but at the risk of sounding ungrateful and churlish and maybe even a little paranoid, I’m not going to join in with the party. That is a pathetic offering, considering what they have available, and I actually think it’s a deliberate snub to all the people requesting images, especially when you take into account that it’s actually a crop of an image, not even a single whole image.

If you zoom in on the boulder – which has been christened “Cheops” by the OSIRIS team – and do a bit of enhancing work on it, there are intriguing hints of detail…

Boulder_Cheops crop

Cheops is clearly very knobbly and rugged, and there appear to be a couple of hollows on the top in which dark surface material has gathered, but that’s about all we can see on that image.But it raises so many questions! Where did that boulder come from? Did it drop out of the sky after being blown off another area of the comet, miles away? Did it fall here from a cliff? Was it originally *under* the surface, and has been exposed as the material above and around it eroded away? And what are those bits embedded in it? SO many questions!

What is actually known about Cheops? Here’s the info from the press release:

This image of the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 19 September 2014, from a distance of 28.5 km.

The image features a large boulder casting a long shadow on the surface of the comet. The boulder has a maximum dimension of about 45 metres and is the largest structure within a group of boulders located on the lower side of the comet’s larger lobe. This cluster of boulders reminded scientists of the famous pyramids at Giza near Cairo in Egypt, and thus it has been named Cheops for the largest of those pyramids, the Great Pyramid, which was built as a tomb for the pharaoh Cheops (also known as Kheops or Khufu) around 2550 BC.

Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

If others want to be grateful for this image, and celebrate its grudging release from the OSIRIS dungeon, they can. I’m not going to. And if you think that’s unfair, and ungrateful, well, come on, think about it… With hundreds of breathtaking images to choose from, showing a bewildering and giddying variety of features and structures, the OSIRIS team cropped one of their images to give us something that is mostly empty and blank, with a single rock banished to one corner. Basically, they gave us the most boring, most empty image they could, which cruelly hints at the magnificent detail other images must show.

This is a crumb tossed grudgingly from the top table, make no mistake about that. This is the people – or person – directly in charge of releasing their images to the public sticking two fingers up AT the public by putting out something that’s not really much better than a crop of a navcam image. It’s shameful.

And if no-one else has realised that, well, sorry, but I have.

If you’re reading this, nice try, OSIRIS, yes, very clever. Now stop laughing at us and show us a real image – something that’s worthy of you, your amazing cameras, and all the people supporting the mission.

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