Rosetta Now Up Close to Comet 67P – Snapping Mapping Mosaics for Momentous Philae Landing

by Ken Kremer on September 1, 2014

Four-image photo mosaic comprising images taken by Rosetta's navigation camera on 31 August 2014 from a distance of 61 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet nucleus is about 4 km across. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

Four-image photo mosaic comprising images taken by Rosetta’s navigation camera on 31 August 2014 from a distance of 61 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mosaic has been contrast enhanced to bring out details. The comet nucleus is about 4 km across.
Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo
See rotated version and 4 individual images below

ESA’s Rosetta orbiter has now moved in so close to its comet quarry that the primordial body overwhelms the screen, and thus its snapping mapping mosaics to capture the complete scene of the bizarre world so it can find the most suitable spot for the momentous Philae landing – upcoming in mid-November.

In fact Rosetta has ‘drawn and quartered’ the comet to collect high resolution views of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with the navcam camera on Sunday, August 31.

The navcam quartet has just been posted to the Rosetta portal today, Monday, September 1, 2014. ESA invited readers to create global photo mosaics.

See above our four frame photo mosaic of navcam images Rosetta took on Aug. 31.

The purpose of taking the images as well as spectra and physical measurements up close is to find a ‘technically feasible’ Philae touchdown site that is both safe and scientifically interesting.

Below is the Rosetta teams four image navcam montage, arranged individually in a 2 x 2 raster.

Four-image montage comprising images taken by Rosetta's navigation camera on 31 August 2014 from a distance of 61 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet nucleus is about 4 km across. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Four-image montage comprising images taken by Rosetta’s navigation camera on 31 August 2014 from a distance of 61 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet nucleus is about 4 km across. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

The navcam image raster sequence was taken from a distance of 61 km from comet 67P.

“Roughly one quarter of the comet is seen in the corner of each of the four images. The four images are taken over an approximately 20 minute period, meaning that there is some motion of the spacecraft and rotation of the comet between the images. As a result, making a clean mosaic out of the four images is not simple,” according to ESA’s Rosetta blog.

As I reported here last week, the ‘Top 5’ landing site candidates have been chosen for the Rosetta orbiters piggybacked Philae lander for humankind’s first attempt to land on a comet.

The potential touchdown sites were announced on Aug. 25, based on a thorough analysis of high resolution measurements collected by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft over the prior weeks since it arrived at the pockmarked Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Aug. 6, 2014.

See our montage of the ‘Top 5’ landing sites below.

Five candidate sites were identified on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for Rosetta’s Philae lander.   The approximate locations of the five regions are marked on these OSIRIS narrow-angle camera images taken on 16 August 2014 from a distance of about 100 km. Enlarged insets below highlight 5 landing zones.  Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA  Processing: Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

Five candidate sites were identified on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for Rosetta’s Philae lander. The approximate locations of the five regions are marked on these OSIRIS narrow-angle camera images taken on 16 August 2014 from a distance of about 100 km. Enlarged insets below highlight 5 landing zones. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA Processing: Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

Rosetta is a mission of many firsts, including history’s first ever attempt to orbit a comet for long term study.

Philae’s history making landing on comet 67P is currently scheduled for around Nov. 11, 2014, and will be entirely automatic. The 100 kg lander is equipped with 10 science instruments.

The new images released today are the best taken so far by the Navcam camera. The probes OSIRIS science camera are even more detailed, and will hopefully be released by ESA soon!

“This is the first time landing sites on a comet have been considered,” said Stephan Ulamec, Lander Manager at DLR (German Aerospace Center), in an ESA statement.

Since rendezvousing with the comet after a decade long chase of over 6.4 billion kilometers (4 Billion miles), a top priority task for the science and engineering team leading Rosetta has been “Finding a landing strip” for the Philae comet lander.

“The clock is ticking’ to select a suitable landing zone soon since the comet warms up and the surface becomes ever more active as it swings in closer to the sun and makes the landing ever more hazardous.

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows the diversity of surface structures on the comet's nucleus. It was taken by the Rosetta spacecraft's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 7, 2014. At the time, the spacecraft was 65 miles (104 kilometers) away from the 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) wide nucleus.  Credit:  ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA/Enhanced processing Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows the diversity of surface structures on the comet’s nucleus. It was taken by the Rosetta spacecraft’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 7, 2014. At the time, the spacecraft was 65 miles (104 kilometers) away from the 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) wide nucleus. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA/Enhanced processing Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

The three-legged lander will fire two harpoons and use ice screws to anchor itself to the 4 kilometer (2.5 mile) wide comet’s surface. Philae will collect stereo and panoramic images and also drill 23 centimeters into and sample its incredibly varied surface.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Rosetta, Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Four-image photo mosaic comprising images taken by Rosetta's navigation camera on 31 August 2014 from a distance of 61 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mosaic has been rotated and contrast enhanced to bring out details. The comet nucleus is about 4 km across. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

Four-image photo mosaic comprising images taken by Rosetta’s navigation camera on 31 August 2014 from a distance of 61 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mosaic has been rotated and contrast enhanced to bring out details. The comet nucleus is about 4 km across. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft on final approach to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in early August 2014. This collage of navcam imagery from Rosetta was taken on Aug. 1, 2, 3 and 4 from distances of 1026 km, 500 km, 300 km and 234 km. Not to scale.  Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM - Collage/Processing: Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft on final approach to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in early August 2014. This collage of navcam imagery from Rosetta was taken on Aug. 1, 2, 3 and 4 from distances of 1026 km, 500 km, 300 km and 234 km. Not to scale. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – Collage/Processing: Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer- kenkremer.com

Read my Rosetta series here:

5 Landing Site Candidates Selected for Rosetta’s Historic Philae Comet Lander

Rosetta Moving Closer to Comet 67P Hunting for Philae Landing Site

What’s Ahead for Rosetta – ‘Finding a Landing Strip’ on Bizarre Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Rosetta Arrives at ‘Scientific Disneyland’ for Ambitious Study of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after 10 Year Voyage

Rosetta on Final Approach to Historic Comet Rendezvous – Watch Live Here

Rosetta Probe Swoops Closer to Comet Destination than ISS is to Earth and Reveals Exquisite Views

Rosetta Orbiter less than 500 Kilometers from Comet 67P Following Penultimate Trajectory Burn

Rosetta Closing in on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after Decade Long Chase

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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