On Saturday, Feb. 14, the Rosetta spacecraft swooped low over the surface of comet 67P/C-G in the first dedicated close pass of its mission, coming within a scant 6 km (3.7 miles) at 12:41 UTC. The image above is a mosaic of four individual NavCam images acquired just shortly afterwards, when Rosetta was about 8.9 km from the comet.
The view above looks across much of the Imhotep region along the flat bottom of comet 67P’s larger lobe. (See a map of 67P’s named regions here.) At the top is the flat “plain” where the Cheops boulder cluster can be seen – the largest of which is 45 meters (148 feet) across.
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The zero phase angle of sunlight during the pass made for fairly even illumination across the comet’s surface.
The image scale on the full mosaic is 0.76 m/pixel and the entire view encompasses a 1.35 × 1.37 km-wide area.
Other NavCam images acquired before and after the pass have been assembled into mosaics – check those out below:
In addition to NavCam images of 67P, Rosetta also acquired high-resolution OSIRIS images of the comet and gathered scientific data about its coma environment during the flyby. These data will be downlinked and processed over the next week or so.
Flybys will be regular parts of Rosetta’s operations over the course of 2015, but due to the comet’s increasing activity none will bring the spacecraft as close as this particular pass.
Rosetta is now moving out to a distance of about 250 km (155 miles) from 67P. Watch a video below of how the Feb. 14 flyby was planned and executed:
Source: ESA’s Rosetta blog
(Also, on Feb. 9, Rosetta captured a full-frame NavCam image of 67P from 105 km. I’ve edited that image for additional contrast and added a blue tint. Enjoy!)