Less than a week before Rosetta’s rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, this view from the OSIRIS instrument shows the nucleus from a distance of 1,950 kilometers.
New images of the nucleus confirm the collar-like appearance of the neck region, which appears brighter than most parts of the comet. Possible explanations range from differences in material or grain size to topological effects.
Other images clearly reveal an extended coma shrouding 67P’s nucleus. “Our coma images cover an area of 150 by 150 square kilometers,” said Luisa Lara from the Institute of Astrophysics in Andalusia, Spain. Most likely these images show only the inner part of the coma, where particle densities are highest. Scientists expect that 67P’s full coma reaches much farther.
Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. It’s the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the sun, and deploy a lander to its surface.