Rosetta reveals comet terrain features

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  • Published: Sep 12, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Infrared Spectroscopy
thumbnail image: Rosetta reveals comet terrain features

The Rosetta spacecraft has mapped the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it moves in orbit, revealing several regions with different appearances. The detail was uncovered using OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) which is the principal imaging system of the Rosetta mission.

The origins of the different regions remain a mystery at the moment but their discovery has caused great excitement. "Never before have we seen a cometary surface in such detail," said OSIRIS Principal Investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Science. "It is a historic moment - we have an unprecedented resolution to map a comet."

The features on the comet, which is about 3 km wide, include peaks, troughs, craters, boulders and parallel grooves. Although it is a relatively small object in space, the comet is large in human terms, as illustrated by this graphic.

The landing site of Philae, the landing craft onboard Rosetta, is currently being selected by ESA scientists and will be announced on September 15th.

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