Up to just a few days ago, the target of ESA’s Rosetta mission, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, was just a dot in the sky, barely distinguishing itself from the stars by displaying a small temporary dust coma. But now Rosetta is getting so close to the comet, 40 000 kilometers – about a tenth of the distance between Earth and the Moon – that the OSIRIS camera starts to resolve the nucleus. The comet nucleus is still just a couple of camera pixels across, but as seen in the movie below, there is a hint of nucleus irregularity. The nucleus size and shape changes slightly, while it is rotating with its 12.4 hour period. From now on, the comet nucleus will just grow in size until it fills the entire field of view of the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) in mid August. Stay tuned for more cool pictures from OSIRIS!
The scientific imaging system OSIRIS was built by a consortium led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany) in collaboration with CISAS, University of Padova (Italy), the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (France), the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucia, CSIC (Spain), the Scientific Support Office of the European Space Agency (The Netherlands), the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (Spain), the Universidad Politéchnica de Madrid (Spain), the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Uppsala University (Sweden), and the Institute of Computer and Network Engineering of the TU Braunschweig (Germany). OSIRIS was financially supported by the national funding agencies of Germany (DLR), France (CNES), Italy (ASI), Spain (MEC), and Sweden (SNSB) and the ESA Technical Directorate.