On September 30 this year, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission came to an end, as the spacecraft was purposefully landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and switched off.
But on the way down, Rosetta continued to snap images, and ESA has just released the final batch of images from one of its cameras, called NAVCAM (Navigation Camera).
The incredible shots were taken between September 2 and 30, with the elliptical orbit of the spacecraft bringing it as close as 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the surface. Of course, Rosetta would eventually impact the surface, but the NAVCAM didn’t take any images this low. Another camera, OSIRIS, did take lower altitude images, which should be released at a later date.
These wide-angle NAVCAM images, though, really are something else. They capture large views of the comet, complete with boulders on the surface, dancing shadows, and huge cliffs. This close, it really hammers home how strangely Earth-like this alien world can appear.
Some of Rosetta’s instruments continued taking data on the way down, so there may yet be more surprises from the spacecraft. For now, though, bask in the glory of these images, our last look at a comet for the foreseeable future.
You can see the full batch of images here and here, but we've picked out a few highlights below.
This image was taken on September 16 from a distance of 15.9 kilometers (9.9 miles). ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
Another image from September 16, taken from 15.1 kilometers (9.4 miles). ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
An interesting lone boulder can be seen at the center of this image on September 16 from 14.5 kilometers (9 miles). ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
Shadows are seen stretching across the surface in this image on September 17 from 12.2 kilometers (7.6 miles) away. ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
A closer image from September 17 taken just 7.3 kilometers (4.5 miles) away. ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
Comet 67P looks strangely Earth-like in this image on September 21 from 15.3 kilometers (9.5 miles). ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
This image was taken on September 26 from a distance of 18.6 kilometers (11.6 miles). ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
The last image from the NAVCAM batch, taken on September 30 from a distance of 17.4 kilometers (10.8 miles). ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0