Comets

Here Are the Last Images We’ll Ever See From Rosetta

The Rosetta team has released the final batch of images taken by the NAVCAM during the last month of its two years of investigations at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It’s a big batch and they are absolutely stunning, but its sad to know they are the last NAVCAM images. The image set covers the period from September 2-30, 2016 when the spacecraft was on elliptical orbits that sometimes brought it to within 2 km of the comet’s surface, so you’ll see a wide variety of imagery with a variety of geology and lighting conditions.

Take a look below:

A large boulder sits precariously on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seem by Rosetta’s NAVCAM on September 11, 2016. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

While these are the final NAVCAM images, there may be more images coming from the OSIRIS camera. Also, many other instruments will be releasing data, as they were active as long as possible before impact. Many of the science instruments were expected to return their last data from between 20 meters to 5 meters above the surface.

ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) collected data on the density of gas around the comet and its composition while GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator) measured the dust density.

RPC’s (Rosetta Plasma Consortium) instrument suite provided a look at interaction between the solar wind and the surface of the comet. Alice, an Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer similar to the one on New Horizons, took high resolution ultraviolet spectra of the surface. RSI (Radio Science Investigation) got the most accurate measurements of the gravity field during descent.

A variety of geology and light on on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seem by Rosetta’s NAVCAM on September 5, 2016. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.
A field of bright bolders on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seem by Rosetta’s NAVCAM during September 2-20. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

And here’s one of the last five images from Rosetta’s NAVCAM as it descended to its controlled impact on September 30 onto Comet 67P, taking incredible, close-up images during descent, this one just 18.1 km up. It shows the “drippy icing” landscape on this portion of the comet:

Single frame enhanced NavCam image taken on September 30, 2016 at 00:27 GMT, when Rosetta was 18.1 km from the center of the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The scale at the surface is about 1.5 m/pixel and the image measures about 1.6 km across. ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

You can see all the final images at the Rosetta blog.

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

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