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67P Revealed…

Yesterday was a VERY big day for the scientists studying Comet 67P, and for the thousands of space enthusiasts who are following the ROSETTA mission to the comet. ROSETTA arrived at Comet 67P just over a month ago, and since then, although high resolution OSIRIS images have been rarer than honest politicians or dragon’s eggs, the ROSETTA ESA team has been releasing low- and medium-resolution NAVCAM images of the comet which have shown it to be a spectacularly dramatic and weird world in its own right. More than 800 scientists – plus countless science and space journalists – have gathered in the Portuguese town of Cascais, for a huge international astronomy conference, the  2014 European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC), and yesterday, during a very special session, the ROSETTA team proudly revealed their first hard scientific results, along with some brand new, long-awaited images of the comet.

This all took place behind closed doors, of course -, that’s the way these things are run – but during the day it was possible to follow what was going on, and get a flavour of the proceedings, by reading Tweets and FB posts from people there. And throughout the day, not long after they had been shown in the crowded EPSC meeting, the new images were released for everyone to see and drool over. And I do mean drool. They’re stunning. ROSETTA sure is taking some fantastic images of 67P’s bizarre nucleus now, as it draws ever closer to it.

Yesterday we got to see the first detailed geological maps of the comet, images of some dust grains captured by ROSETTA, and other scientific results too. But as fascinating as these were, let’s be honest, most of us standing on tiptoes outside the EPSC meeting window, like Tiny Tim looking into a toyshop, were desperate to see new images of the comet, and when one was finally released it was… well, nothing short of magnigficent… Here, click on it to enlarge it, and prepare for your gob to be well and truly smacked…


Just LOOK at it..! Look at those boulders, some of them must be tens of metres across… look at the long, jagged shadows cast behind them, rippling across the dusty, rubble-strewn ground… look at the jagged features on the far horizon, standing out against the blackness of space like broken teeth…

THAT, dear readers, is what OSIRIS can do, is doing, and has been doing all this time – taking truly stunning, high resolution images of this fascinating object. And I know I sound a bit like a stuck CD here, and that some people think I’m being impatient, or worse, and it’s not going to change, and I am genuinely grateful for all the images released so far… but… but oh, how I wish we could see more of them… 😦


Anyway… back to that glorious image. As soon as I saw it I knew that some areas of it showed incredible detail and were screaming to be looked at more closely. Then, panning around the image, I saw that other parts of it, where the camera was seeing features “on the horizon” of the comet at an oblique angle, might possibly offer us  our first real view of a comet’s surface from the point of view of someone standing ON it, or at least someone flying low over its surface. So I set about cropping it to isolate those areas and then “work” on them, sharpening and enhancing them to bring out the more subtle features in the landscape. And here is what I came up with…


Oh boy, just look at that… but wait, zoom in a bit more, tidy it up a bit more, and you see *this*…

crop 2

I LOVE that view, there’s so much in it. At the top, that smooth area looks like drifted dust, or snow… and to its right, in the centre of the image, is that layering? It certainly looks like it to me… Either that, or 67P is home to a beautiful ice dragon which rakes deep lines in the dusty ice with its claws as it prowls around its ledges, outcrops and pits…

And then there’s this view…

crop 3b

So much going on there, isn’t there? But what catches my eye are the shadows cast behind the boulders and rocks, they give the scene such a three dimensional quality that it’s not hard to imagine being there, at that very place, in person, working your way around those boulders, boots crump-crumping through the coal-black dust…

But I’ve saved the best for last, because on the far horizon I spotted something quite special…

spires ring

I zoomed in on that, levelled the horizon, and tidied it up until I came up with something which shows one of the most stunning features glimpsed on 67P so far – and maybe, just maybe, shows what it would be like to walk across the comet’s surface, towards a huge crumbling tower of rock and ice… Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you… the Spires of Churyumov-Gerasimenko


One can only imagine how jaw-droppingly stunning the highest resolution OSIRIS images of this feature – and others around it – are. Hopefully we’ll get to see them soon. In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief – and totally unofficial – glimpse of the true, bizarre beauty of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.


2 Responses

  1. […] Alle fünf Landeplatz-Kandidaten sind schlechter als was man erhofft hatte. [19:00 MESZ] Derweil Jubel über das OSIRIS-Bild oben, selten wie es (für alle b) ist. [20:15 […]

  2. Woooooooooooow…….

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