Even spacecraft take “selfies”, a word that can now be legally used in a game of Scrabble. And this selfie is quite impressive. Ten years ago, the European Space Agency launched the Rosetta spacecraft to track down, orbit and study comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
It’s been in orbit for sometime now and surprising researchers and scientists with its findings. Now the spacecraft is set to deploy is Philae lander to touch down on the comets surface and in anticipation of the event, the spacecraft is taking a number of pictures in order to determine the best place to put down on the surface. As a result, we are getting treated to a number of high-contrast exposures of the spacecraft and the duck-shaped comet. A recent photo may be one of the better selfies ever taken showing the Rosetta’s solar panels with the comet in the shot behind it. The shot was taken a mere 31 miles from Comet 67P.
Rosetta spacecraft spots duck-shaped comet
There are prominent cliffs and boulders visible in the shot of the charcoal colored comet that is surprisingly bereft of ice deposits that scientists were expecting to find. The philae lander is anticipated to land somewhere on the comet’s nucleus around November 11,2014.
Scientists are narrowing down the list of possible landing sites and are believed to be deciding between five sites.
“With various areas dominated by cliffs, depressions, craters, boulders or even parallel grooves, 67P/C-G displays a multitude of different terrains. Some areas even appear to have been shaped by the comet’s activity,” the Rosetta team said in the release.f
The selfies were shown earlier today at a special Rosetta research session at the 2014 European Planetary Science Congress being held in Cascais, Portugal.
Scientists are looking to determine both a primary and secondary landing site with the selections expected to be made this weekend when the Rosetta Lander Team and Rosetta orbiter team meet in Toulouse, France.
The 100 kilogram lander is equipped with ten separate instruments and will be historic. The three-legged lander will fire two harpoons into the comet and use ice screws to fasten itself to the comet before collecting stereo and panoramic images of 67P. It will also drill nearly a foot into the comet in order to take a sample.
November marks the last time that a landing is possible as the surface will become more active as the comet begins nearing the sun.