March 27, 2014
ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has caught a first glimpse of its destination comet since waking up from deep-space hibernation on 20 January.
These two ‘first light’ images were taken on 20 and 21 March by the OSIRIS wide-angle camera and narrow-angle camera, as part of six weeks of activities dedicated to preparing the spacecraft’s science instruments for close-up study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
OSIRIS, the Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System, developed under the leadership of the Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung in Göttingen, Germany, has two cameras for imaging the comet. One covers a wide angle, while the narrow-angle camera covers a smaller field at higher resolution.
OSIRIS is one of a suite of 11 science instruments on the Rosetta orbiter that together will provide details on the comet’s surface geology, its gravity, mass, shape and internal structure, its gaseous, dust-laden atmosphere and its plasma environment.
Rosetta has been travelling through the Solar System for 10 years, and will finally arrive at the comet in August this year. It first imaged the comet in a long exposure of over 13 hours from a distance of 163 million kilometres, three years ago, before entering deep-space hibernation.
image credit: ESA