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Emily LakdawallaFebruary 13, 2015

An active comet, from a distance

As I write this, Rosetta has closed to within 50 kilometers of Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on its way to a very close, 6-kilometer flyby of the comet tomorrow. ESA posted a detailed blog about the flyby today, and how it is typical of Rosetta's mission throughout 2015. But that's not what I'm writing about here. To prepare for the flyby, Rosetta traveled much farther away, allowing it to snap these amazing photos of an increasingly active comet from a great distance. Enjoy!

An active comet, from a distance

ESA / Rosetta / NavCam

An active comet, from a distance
Rosetta traveled to a distance of 124 kilometers from Churyumov-Gerasimenko to take this photo on February 6, 2015. The spacecraft was preparing for its close flyby on February 14. The most active area of the comet is the neck, but jets are visible from much of the rest of the sunlit terrain.
Comet behind a curtain

ESA / Rosetta / NavCam

Comet behind a curtain
Comet jets rise out of the shadowed neck, appearing only when they reach sunlight. Rosetta took this photo of Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a distance of 105 kilometers on February 9, 2015, as it began diving toward the comet for a close flyby on February 14. At this distance, the image is about 9.1 kilometers square.

Read more: Rosetta and Philae, pretty pictures, comets, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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