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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.

A canyon. On a comet.

… but I’ll show you that later…! :-)

Today ESA released another quartet of navcam images of 67P, taken from a distance/height of just 18km, so they show a wealth of detail. Well, sort of. Much of the comet is in shadow, but the parts that are illuminated show boulders, crumbling ledges, and much more. Here’s the mosaic produced by ESA…

Comet_on_2_October_NavCam

…and again I’ve done some work on it, cropping sections from it and enhancing them to bring out details. Here’s my latest “tour” pf 67P…

crop2

crop3

crop4

crop1

But my favourite crop this time is this next one… it shows the top of the “neck” of the comet, but it’s not hard to imagine it as a canyon on the comet, with the walls rising up on either side… Ok, click to enlarge and then feast your eyes on this thing of beauty…

crop5 comet valley2

Wow… what a world we live in, eh? :-)

Oh, and no, no OSIRIS images released yet, in case you were wondering.

- Stu.

An open letter to the OSIRIS Project Team

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE OSIRIS TEAM

ROSETTA has now been studying Comet 67P for two months, and thanks to the tremendous efforts of ESA, especially its hard-working Outreach and media teams, we are seeing a comet as never before. As you know, ESA is regularly releasing images taken by ROSETTA’s navcam camera, and with every one of these images released 67P is becoming more and more a real world to us; the features on its bizarre, alien surface are coming into sharper focus now, and we’re starting to make (a little!) sense out of what we’re seeing. Like all great space missions, ROSETTA’s goal is exploration in its purest form – we are seeing somewhere new, for the first time in human history, and thanks to the efforts of the ESA team releasing those navcam images, tens of thousands – and probably many, many more – of armchair explorers, amateur scientists and space enthusiasts around the world are joining in that exploration, and supporting and following this exciting, ambitious and history-making mission.

However, while the navcam images are impressive, everyone knows that ROSETTA carries an imaging system with much higher resolution, capable of taking extraordinarily detailed images – your system, OSIRIS.

Ever since ROSETTA was launched, ten long years ago, we have looked forward to seeing OSIRIS’s images of the comet, our appetites whetted by the spectacular views of asteroids taken en-route to 67P. Now ROSETTA has reached its goal, the navcam images are hinting at incredible features on its surface, and with Philae’s dramatic landing barely a month away understandably public interest in seeing the comet in all its grandeur and glory is climbing higher and higher every day.

But sadly, no OSIRIS images are being released to the world.

Having looked forward to seeing 67P through OSIRIS’s eagle eyes for a decade, this is frustrating a lot of people, as I am sure you are aware if you are following discussions taking place on the forums, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of space enthusiasts and space journalists around the world.

I share that frustration. I have written about this here on my own blog, and on Facebook and Twitter too. I have emailed people on the OSIRIS team about this personally, but my emails have been ignored, so I am writing to you in this way to request, on behalf of myself, ROSETTA followers, armchair explorers, space enthusiasts and science reporters and journalists all around the world, that you release some of the images you have taken.

Many people believe that the images should be released because the ROSETTA mission is a publicly-funded mission, and the public who paid for it, through their taxes, have a right to see the images. Others believe that the images should be released because they would excite and inspire people around the world. Still others believe that the images should be released because they would allow the public to participate in one of the most exciting voyages of discovery ever made.

I agree with all those views, and share them. I also strongly believe that, in this modern age when people around the world can enjoy new images taken from Saturn and Mars daily, and can regularly see new images taken from the Moon and elsewhere, the continuing lack of OSIRIS images into the public domain is now nothing short of a disgrace, and needs to be addressed urgently. This wonderful mission, and the incredible scientific team behind it, and the members of the public following it, deserve better than to have their thirst for knowledge ignored like this.

I am not just writing this because, as one of those aforementioned “space enthusiasts” I want to see those pictures for myself. I want those pictures to be released because I want to share them with others. As someone very active in Outreach and Education I spend a lot of my “free time” giving illustrated talks to groups about astronomy and space. I want to be showing your beautiful pictures of 67P in the schools, church halls, and community centres I visit. I want to be showing them to classrooms full of bright eyed young children who are fascinated and excited by “space”. I want to show them to societies of engineers who are eager to learn what is happening “out there”. But maybe most of all I want – no, I need – to show them to the people who are NOT already fascinated by space. The young mums, struggling to pay weekly bills who wonder why millions is being spent on exploring distant worlds when they can’t afford to heat their children’s bedrooms; the pensioner couple who can’t understand why so much money was spent sending a robot to a space iceberg when they have to choose between a meal for them, or their dog; the jobless teenager who can’t make sense of the way a fortune is spent taking images of boulders on a chunk of ice far, far away from Earth when she can’t afford the bus fare to get her to a job interview on time. You have images which would – or at least might – help show these people why we explore space, why we spend that money, why we reach out for Out There when our own world and its people have so many problems. Keeping them to yourselves is wrong. It’s just wrong.

I understand how busy you are, trying to ensure Philae sets down as safely as possible, and no-one would want to interfere with that vital work by asking you to take new images just for public use. But by now you must have dozens, if not hundreds of images available for release.

I also understand that you are following the terms of your agreement with ESA by having a “proprietary period”, during which you are entitled to keep the images to yourselves. This makes sense, as it allows your scientists to look at the images before anyone else, and to use them for their research and for writing their crucially important papers and journals, etc. That’s how modern science works, and no-one sensible is questioning the need for that for a moment, or expecting to see all the images OSIRIS is taking. No-one begrudges the men and women who have worked on this mission for so many years the first chance to see and work with the images being taken by OSIRIS. But it simply cannot be the case that every single OSIRIS image taken so far shows something *so* important, *so* scientifically paradigm-shifting that it has to be locked up for 6 months. That’s simply not possible. There must be some OSIRIS images now that could be released without any risk to the mission or the careers of the hard-working, dedicated scientists involved.

You will be aware, I’m sure, that an Indian space probe recently arrived in Mars orbit, and within hours images taken by that probe were being released online, creating a media storm. Surely you must realise that the release of even a handful of OSIRIS images, showing close-ups of individual boulders, or crumbling ledges, or a single out-gassing vent, would raise the ROSETTA mission’s profile enormously, and really set the stage for the Philae landing?

It is my belief, and the belief of many others, that the OSIRIS team’s attitude towards the release of images is badly outdated and misguided. Many years ago it would have been the norm. But now, in this age of social media, scientists working on other missions are enthusiastically embracing the public’s fascination with the exploration of space, and allowing them to share in the sheer joy of that exploration by releasing images taken by their space probes and rovers, quickly and freely. The most striking and successful examples of this are NASA’s Mars rovers. Images taken by the MER “Opportunity” and the MSL” Curiosity” are posted online the next day, sometimes even within a matter of hours, allowing the public to virtually explore Mars for themselves, which they love.

The brave and bold decision to do this was taken by scientists involved in those missions before they were even built. Why? In his best-selling book “POSTCARDS FROM MARS” MER and MSL scientist Jim Bell says:

Steve Squyres and I made an unusual decision early on in this project. If we were lucky enough to land a rover (or two) on Mars safely, we decided that we would share the images with everyone without restrictions or embargoes, as quickly as possible, using the Internet. Both of us had been involved in previous projects where this had not been the case. Certainly there were technological limitations on data distribution in the days before the Internet. Sometimes, though, scientists who have put so many years of their career into a project feel entitled to “own” the data. It’s natural for some people to feel a close personal connection to images or other data that have been acquired at a cost of years of hard work and personal sacrifices. However, sometimes people can go too far and start referring to the data as “my images” or “my spectra.” In the long run, I believe that holding the cards too close to your chest like this can do more damage than good for science and exploration. We were privileged to have been entrusted with taxpayer dollars to run this mission. We have an obligation to share both our successes and failures openly and honestly with the general public. In the case of the rovers, when the images are decoded at jpl from the radio signals the rovers send from Mars, a computer program automatically generates a JPEG version of every image at the same time, and these get posted on a publicly accessible Web site (see “Additional Resources” at the end of the book) usually within a day of being taken on Mars. As best we can count, millions of people have been accessing and downloading these images from the Web. Some of our colleagues think we’re fools to have done this (“You’re giving your data away!”). It is true that we have been “scooped” a few times on scientific papers or media stories by some people who use these instant images to get a quick result published. To us, though, that’s a small price to pay to allow so many others—kids, teachers, space enthusiasts, laypeople, even members of Congress—to be able to follow along in near-real-time and to be a part of our amazing martian adventure.”

Thanks to this generous policy, every day people all around the world are able to see images taken on Mars just a matter of hours previously. School pupils in high tech classrooms in Europe and in barely furnished rooms in Africa are able to stride across Mars together, hand in hand. Today, thanks to the Internet, knowledge has no boundaries, knows no borders. Around the world scientists are embracing the possibilities this presents – but not the OSIRIS team, it seems. By withholding your images as you are doing, you are – unintentionally I’m sure – making ESA look outdated and selfish.

I therefore urge you all, in the strongest possible terms, to think very carefully about the harm this withholding of images is doing – unfairly – to ESA’s reputation and to the ROSETTA mission.

I also urge you to think for a moment about how huge the Outreach impact would be if you released some images. Within hours they would be on every space blog, forum and website, on the front pages of newspapers, and on TV news programmes around the world, showing the people of the world what an incredible mission ROSETTA is, how much ESA has achieved, and more.

And to be frank, ESA carried OSIRIS to Mars for you. You owe them.

The ROSETTA team did such a fantastic job getting the public interested in the mission, with all the cute animations, competitions and more, that by the time ROSETTA reached 67P countless thousands of people around the world, young and old, felt involved in the mission. Now that ROSETTA is orbiting 67P and taking, we are told, “stunning images”, those same people are desperate to see those images, but can’t.

I hope you change your minds soon, and release some of your spectacular images. They must show wonders the like of which we have never seen before. More importantly, those images have the ability to inspire a generation of children to become scientists – perhaps the scientists who, following in your footsteps, will help guide a manned spacecraft down to the surface of a comet, on some future anniversary of Philae’s historic landing.

Again, on behalf of myself, and the countless thousands of frustrated ROSETTA followers – armchair explorers, space enthusiasts, science reporters and journalists – scattered all around the world, desperate to see 67P in the same glorious detail you are seeing it, I request that you release some of the images OSIRIS has taken, now, and not in six months time.

Sincerely,

Stuart Atkinson.

ROSETTA: Closer and closer…

Yesterday ESA released its latest set of four Comet 67P images taken by Rosetta’s own navcam camera. They tried assembling them into a single mosaic image,  bless them, but when the images were taken, on Sept 30th, the comet moved so much between each of the individual frames as they were taken that they just don’t line up very well. Anyway. here’s the latest image…

Comet_on_30_September_NavCam

And again, although that image itself is rather confusing, it does show wonderful new detail if you just take the time to let your eyes wander over the image and drink in the view. I’ve cropped sections of it and enhanced those crops to bring out some of the increasingly-amazing detail on offer now… As ever, click on each image to enlarge it…

crop4

Oh my, look at the crack running through that! And that MUST be layering in there….

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I love this area of the comet, it’s definitely one of my favourites, with that “fortress” standing high above the rocky plain, with huge rocks and boulders littering the ground beneath it…

Oct 6 release LZ 2

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that that’s a new view of the Philae landing site, the clearest I’ve been able to produce from the navcams yet. Philae is going to be aimed at the centre of that image… where it looks like there are a few pretty big boulders waiting to welcome her…. :-(

And finally for this time…

crop2

Look, there’s That Boulder again, the one studded with other, smaller rocks. Would LOVE a closer look at that, wouldn’t you? Oh, if only ROSETTA had a higher resolution camera, which could take images with a resolution of 1m or less, that would be BRILLIANT, wouldn’t it -

What? It does? Really? What’s it called? Something really cool? What was that? It’s called “OSIRIS”? Wow, they kept that quiet! How long has it had that? What, since it got there? Since it was *launched*??? Naaah, come on, you can’t fool me, that’s ridiculous! Surely, if a science team had such a technological marvel they’d be showing off at least some of its pictures now and again, for the good of everyone? Cos, you know, if they just kept them all to themselves it would make them look like a bunch of arrogant, selfish, stubborn boffins who basically just didn’t want to share their pretty pictures, especially not with the little people who actually paid for their fancy camera to be built, taken to Mars, and operated there.

And that would be pretty appalling.

Don’t you think?

New navcam image of 67P shows stunning activity

After a pause of several days, ESA has released another set of four images of Comet 67P taken by the navcam on the ROSETTA probe. These images can be assembled into a single mosaic image, but the problem is that ROSETTA is now so close to 67P, less than 30km away in fact, that it has moved noticeably between each of the exposures, which means stitching them together without seams or discrepancies is just about impossible, and even creating a single image at all is is extremely difficult; shadows lengthen between images, features rotate towards or away from the camera, etc. Here’s the version put up on the ESA “Comet Chaser” blog, which is still pretty amazing but you can see the challenges for yourself where the images join…

Comet_on_26_September_NavCam

Image: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Now, when you isolate each image, the level of detail is pretty stunning, but obviously what really draws the eye are those beautiful jets shooting up from the “neck” of the comet…

jets crop

Here’s a closer look at that horizon being silhouetted by the jets…

jets

Oh, just imagine what it must be like just over that horizon, where the jets are coming out of the ground…! But WHAT are they coming out of? Cracks? Holes?

The only people who know what wonders lurk beyond that boulder-strewn horizon are the OSIRIS team – the scientists and engineers, based at the Max Planck Institute for Science, who continue, despite public and professional pleas, to withhold the images being ROSETTA’s highest resolution camera from the world.

I’m sure that OSIRIS images of the sources of those jets must be absolutely jaw dropping, but I honestly get the feeling we’re just not going to get to see them anytime soon. The OSIRIS team are keeping them under wraps because they want to, because they just don’t want to share them. And, of course, under the terms of their written-in-blood-on-tablets-of-stone contract with ESA and the ESA’s member states they don’t HAVE to share them for at least another five months.

I know some people will accuse me of being obsessed here, and of going on like a stuck record (sorry, scratched CD… showing my age there!), but it’s just wrong what they’re doing. There is absolutely no way, no possible way, that every single image taken by OSIRIS is so scientifically priceless, so packed with new insights into cometary processes, so revolutionary, that it has to be kept from the world. I’m sorry, I’m just not buying that.

It’s not as if the OSIRIS team are unaware of the public and media interest in their images, and the hunger to see them. Many bloggers are writing about this, as are many space journalists, and space enthusiast forums and websites are all putting out the same message – please show us some pictures!

But they’re not listening, and they are now consciously ignoring the calls for release of their images. I know this for a fact because I have personally emailed people on the OSIRIS team and had no response. I have written to Prof Ulrich Christensen, the MPS “Comets and Planets” Section Director, but have received no reply. I have written to the OSIRIS Project Manager, Dr Dr Carsten Guettler, twice, but again have received no reply. Now I know they’re very busy people, but to not even reply to an email (and I was polite and respectful, I didn’t demand anything!) is a pretty deliberate snub. I have also written to OSIRIS Principal Investigator Dr Holger Sierks, and he was very generous with his time a few weeks ago when he agreed to an email “Interview” for this blog, but the last time I wrote to him, more than a week ago, he suggested that an OSIRIS image of the source of the jets would be released soon, and it still hasn’t been, which is very disappointing.

It’s time this situation changed.

I’m seriously thinking about setting up an online petition for people to sign if they want to see some OSIRIS images of Comet 67P. I’m mulling that over right now. If I did that, would YOU sign? Would you circulate it amongst your friends and online contacts?

In the meantime, here are some of my (now quite popular, apparently!) enhanced crops of sections of the latest OSIRIS image…

c2

cliffs

surface

fortress

changed.

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