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Photos From The Rosetta And Philae Probe Show The Alien Terrain Of Comet 67P

History was made on November 12, 2014, when the European Space Agency‘s Philae probe made a successful touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, sometimes affectionately known as “Chury.” The precise calculations and the size, speed and distance of the comet made the landing an incredible feat, and it will be remembered as the first controlled landing on a comet nucleus. For ten years prior to this, Philae‘s mothership, the Rosetta, has been tailing the comet as it made its orbit around the sun and inner solar system.

Philae has been transmitting panoramic pictures back to Earth since landing, giving us a glimpse of what it’s like on a comet as it hurtles through space, providing researchers with the most complete, in-depth study of a comet they’ve had yet. As the comet continues in its orbit, Philae will stay on it, so we’ll also be able to look into the void of open space.

Philae’s photos, shot in stark black and white, show the landscape of the Comet 67P from the ground, where it looks like a small, arid island in the vast dark ocean of space. Beyond the horizon, distant stars glimmer. The comet, like space itself, is solid black, meaning that to us, it would be barely visible against the blackness of space. The ESA describes it as “blacker than coal,” and thus the photos you see here have been enhanced with a grayscale to make the comet’s features visible.

The comet from the perspective of Rosetta. Like most comets, it’s composed of ice, dust and rocks, which lend it an irregular shape with spire-like protrusions.

The comet as seen from the Rosetta‘s NAVCAM. This is taken from about 40km away. The comet is roughly the height of Mt. Fuji on Earth.

This is the parting shot from Rosetta after the Philae probe detached and began towards the comet.

Philae, seen here as a tiny dot circled in red, descents to the comet’s surface.

A view of the landing process taken from Philae‘s downward-facing ROLIS camera. The ROLIS captured images of the probe’s descent onto the comet’s surface, and, now that the probe has landed, it will serve as a multispectral close-up camera.

The lander Philae on the surface of the comet.

The comet’s surface is varied, and overlooks the emptiness of space.

Comet 67P’s sandy surface. The photos, which are taken in black and white, have been grayscaled to make the features more easily visible.

The comet has a varied terrain of cliffs, dunes and jagged rocks.

Rosetta‘s OSIRIS camera spots Philae as it travels across the comet’s surface. These were taken about 15.5 km from the surface. In the insets, you can see Philae doing an (unintentional) flip.

Comet 67P/CG will come to perihelion–that is, closest to the sun–next August, where it will be visible from Earth’s northern hemisphere. In the meantime, you can see more images of the comet on the ESA’s Flickr profile.

Via My Modern Met|Flickr