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Closer and closer to 67P…

The European Space Agency probe ROSETTA is now just three days and 500km away from its icy prey, Comet 67P, and now even the “low resolution” NAVCAM pictures – being released daily by ESA, as promised – show distinct features on its surface, revealing it to be a craggy body with some very interesting-looking landforms. Here’s today’s (Sunday’s) pic which was taken yesterday and posted online just a few minutes ago…

Navcam Aug 2

Isn’t that fascinating?? And with a little bit of cleaning up etc those surface features stand out even more clearly…

Navcam Aug 2 b

Oh, there’s SO much going on there! I think the Rosetta team will be particularly interested in that flat region on the “base” of the larger part of the double nucleus, because their PHILAE lander will need somewhere relatively flat to land on later in the year, and that looks like the flattest area seen so far. I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at it, so here’s a crop from the above image, rotated to make it look a little less migraine-inducing’; I think scenes like this look more natural, and are easier for the brain (well, MY brain!) to interpret with the light coming in from a more friendly angle, so I think the scene looks as if you were flying towards it with the landscape beneath you, but that might just be me, see what you think…

Navcam Aug 2 b base topography

I think… think… that scene shows several crags and raised ridges, all surrounding a flatter plain with a central, roughly circular area raised up a little, but what do I know? If I knew what that image really showed I’d be there at ESA, looking at their monitors and their images, instead of sitting here in rain-sodden, Kendal trying to tap out a blog post with a very loud and demanding cat sitting on my chest… 😉

It has been, shall we say, a very “interesting” weekend for those of us following the ROSETTA mission. If you’ve been following my blog posts you’ll know that many people, including myself, are very unhappy with the way images of 67P are being released by ESA. The reasons for this drip feed of data is now well known, and I’ve written about it a lot already, and had decided not to go on about it anymore. And then at the end of last week, on Thursday, the OSIRIS team released an image, taken on July 29th, which we were very pleased with, because – certainly compared to the navcam images – it seemed to show a lot more detail than before…


Yaaay! I thought, we’re finally getting to see something good…!

And then, late on Friday night, I was browsing Facebook, just keeping an eye on things, as you do, and out of nowhere an image of 67 appeared which looked… well… incredibly sharp and clear, far sharper than the one released by the OSIRIS team the previous day. I’m not going to say who posted it – you can find that out yourself with a bit of time on Google, and I’m sure it was a genuine mistake and not a deliberate “leak”, and the guy who did it was probably slapped about the head with a Bratwurst by the German team who are jealously guarding their beloved OSIRIS images like Smaug guarding his horde of gold, or at least given a very stern warning not to do it again – but y used the image to illustrate a FB post pointing out what they saw as the comet nucleus’s apparent similarity in shape to a US State. They didn’t look that much alike to me, but when I saw 67P  I almost spat out my Dandelion and Burdock, because it was SO sharp and clear compared to the previous day’s I knew it shouldn’t have been released into the wild yet, and would probably be taken down VERY quickly.

So of course I took a screengrab straight away… 🙂


I know, WOW! right? Look at that detail! I quickly fired up my image processing programs and had a go at enhancing it a little, and this is what I got…

stern oops c

…which isn’t very much different I know, but it was worth a try. Meanwhile, over on Twitter, the same picture had been posted by the same person – again with no malice or mischief intended I am absolutely sure – which quickly prompted curious and suspicious people to ask if, er, it was a new picture…?

..and at some point then the penny must have dropped, because those images were then deleted from FB and Twitter so fast there was almost a sonic boom. I bet the poor guy who had posted them sat there at his computer, staring at the screen and thinking “Oh **** oh ****!!!!” as he realised what he had done.

Luckily for the OSIRIS team it was very late in the night for Europe, and  evening across the US, when the image escaped, so very few people actually saw the pic before it was deleted, and it didn’t “go viral” like the previous leaked image did. It was seen, and Saved, by dedicated space enthusiasts following the Rosetta mission, but, supportive of the mission and the Rosetta Outreach team, and realising a mistake had been made, we didn’t post them on our blogs or Twitter or FB pages, which I’m sure the Rosetta team were very grateful for. In fact, the new OSIRIS image didn’t surface in public until it was posted on an Italian space enthusiasts forum, and then by someone who assumed it had been released properly instead of by mistake. Consequently, the OSIRIS team released the image themselves yesterday, no doubt in a damage limitation attempt. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have released it until the middle of next week, otherwise.

But, as welcome as that release was, it does make you wonder WHY ARE THE OSIRIS TEAM STILL BOTHERING TO HORDE THEIR IMAGES??? If they are happy to share them with a few select others, then why not share them with everyone, especially the people who paid for them to be taken and who are the most enthusiastic about and supportive of the mission? Their whole approach to image release is coming across as more and more ridiculous, to be honest. Oh well.

So, here we are, just three days until the Big Day! On Wednesday expect very detailed images of the comet on your TV reports and, of course, all over the internet. As I’ve already said, with incredibly good timing I’ll be in a tent just outside Edinburgh on Wednesday, so will probably struggle to even see the images as they’re posted never mind write about them, but I’ll try my best. I might end up sitting in a corner of McDonalds off Princes Street, using their WiFi to get at the pictures, but I’ll manage somehow!

We can expect another great navcam image tomorrow, and I’ll post that here soon after it appears.





One Response

  1. […] wobei die ESA diesmal freundlicherweise Bildartefakte gleich selber entfernte – auch eine Würdigung der Bilder bisher und das erfolgreiche vorletzte Bahnmanöver. Ferner ist heute der 10. Jahrestag des Starts […]

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