Launching in 2004, and traveling for the last 10 years of an estimated 12 year voyage, the Rosetta orbiter has conducted gravity assist after gravity assist flyby maneuvers with the Earth and Mars as it traveled around the sun during its long mission to eventually rendaveau with, orbit around, and land "the Jupiter-family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with a combination of remote sensing and in situ measurements". On August 6th, 2014 it finally arrived at the comet and immediately got to work. As it approached the comet on August 1, 2014 it began a sequence image capture that included a composite animation of 101 of them, using its NAVCAMs (Navigation Cameras) as it continued to approach.
On August 6th as it arrived in orbit about the come, it began its Global Mapping of the surface which continued through August and into September. The images, using OSIRIS aboard Rosetta were captured in full from as it slowly orbited closer and closer to the tumbling mass of cosmic collisions. It is observed of course that the comet itself was formed by the collision of two other objects, that connected and fused at the "neck" area of the comet itself which gives it its odd "duck bill look."
Unfortunately, as Rosetta has moved closer to the comet, 50km as of August 23, instead of being able to capture a full frame of the comet, it began capturing only 1/4 segments to still allow for mapping of the object. These new segments were released on September 1st, allowing the image processing community the ability to create composites of a few that had been captured on August 31st. The second of these four-part images were released on September 4th of a sequenced captured on the 2nd.
On the August 31st images, a plume of what appears to be dust or some sort of out-gassing is seen originating from the "neck" narrow section of the comet.
The following animation is a complete sequence of the released full frame images from August 6 to the 23rd, and the composite images I have been splicing together from September 1st through the 4th.
While these images are captured days apart, it is interesting to see how the comet itself continues to tumble about its wobbly rotation.
|ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM/animation by Errol Coder|