Rosetta probe returns lovely Valentine’s Day close-ups of comet

16 Feb 20151 Share

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Four image mosaic comprising images taken on 3 February 2015 by Rosetta's Navigation Camera (NAVCAM). Image via ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM - CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

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While people were feeling the love back on Earth, the Rosetta spacecraft was spending its Valentine’s Day taking pictures of its closest approach to comet 67P at just 9km from its surface.

Just as planned, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) craft got into its closest orbit with the comet passing through something called the ‘zero phase’ angle which is when the sun is directly behind Rosetta giving it almost perfect lighting for photographs, hence the quality of the photos.

According to the ESA, the close proximity to the comet allowed Rosetta’s instruments use its vast array of measurement to capture the inner workings of its thin atmosphere – better known as its coma – which the space agency hope will develop a connection between the source of the observed activity and the wider coma.

Rosetta was able to take four sets of NAVCAM images with the most stunning of them being a mosaic of four images that measure approximately 1.35 x 1.37 km across which was analysing comet 67P’s Imhotep region, on its largest lobe.

Rosetta’s next task is to take another set of photos albeit at a much farther distance of 255km on Tuesday, 17 February.

Rosetta-close-up-1

Four image mosaic of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comprising images taken on 14 February at 14:15 UTC from a distance of 8.9 km from the surface. The image scale is 0.76 m/pixel and the mosaic measures 1.35×1.37 km across. The image focuses on the stunning features of the Imhotep region, on the comet’s large lobe. Image ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

Rosetta-close-up-2

Four image montage of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comprising images taken on 14 February 2015 at 10:15 GMT from a distance of 12.6 km from the comet centre (about 10.6 km from the surface). Image via ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

Rosetta-close-up-3

Four image montage of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comprising images taken on 14 February 2015 at 19:42 GMT from a distance of 31.6 km form the comet centre. Image via ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com