Top 10 at 10 km


Click for full slideshow. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0


ESA’s comet-chasing Rosetta mission spent much of the second half of October orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko at less than 10 km from its surface. This selection of previously unpublished ‘beauty shots’, taken by Rosetta’s navigation camera, presents the varied and dramatic terrain of this mysterious world from this close orbit phase of the mission.

Some light contrast enhancements have been made to emphasise certain features and to bring out features in the shadowed areas. In reality, the comet is extremely dark – blacker than coal. The images, taken in black-and-white, are grey-scaled according to the relative brightness of the features observed, which depends on local illumination conditions, surface characteristics and composition of the given area. Some slight vignetting can also be seen in the corners of some images.

View and download the full set of ten images here.



  • dave says:

    What a varied terrain the comet has.
    The first picture in the sequence, now that there is a close up appears to me like the first evidence i have seen of sublimation through the dust or sand that covers the plains, assuming there is ice underneath.
    The sand on the plain that terminates in the bottom left hand corner of the shot has a mottled look as though something has permeated through it.

  • Michele says:

    Guys, what is this sparkly stuff? Is that ice? Image #6 in the shadow belong the summit.

    • logan says:

      Hi Michele. Most of the chatting here describe it as extremely ‘fluffy’ snow, mostly. Believe that official comment on them is still missing.

      • logan says:

        There is a lot of ‘Gals’ a lot more smart than me around here, Michele.

    • Robin Sherman says:

      Hi Michele. We saw something like this on an image of the crater/plain containing the boulder called Cheops. There was a piece of cliff that looked as if it had just broken off and fractured into hundreds of pieces. The exposed edge of the cliff and the rubble at the bottom of the cliff were very bright compared to stuff surrounding them. The trouble is although it looks white, in actuality it is still quite black. The grey scale of the images has been stretched so that the faintly different shades of black go from black to white.

      Some suspect it is freshly exposed material containing volatile ices, things like Carbon Dioxide, Ammonia, Water, Carbon Monoxide, Methane, all frozen solid all mixed together with “dust”. The radiation, Solar Wind and Cosmic Rays start to “cook”, for the want of a better word, the chemicals in the ices and make dark coloured organic compounds, slowly turning the ice black.

      The image you mention looks very similar although in this one it is not possible to see which part of the cliff the “sparkly” bits came from. Nobody knows for sure what it is and ESA can’t or won’t tell us. I think as we travel with 67P closer to the sun and the activity increases this might become more common though. You can see the tops of many boulders that very bright too, which might be where the surface ice has evaporated/sublimated to expose the fresher ice below it. No one from ESA has made a definitive statement that the crust and boulders we see are made of an icy material, so all the above is only a best guess based on the theory that comets are made mainly of ice and dust. Others think the comet is mainly rock rather than mainly ice, so their ideas are different and their answer too.

      Newly exposed surfaces of the comet’s surface material is the best consensus I guess. Shiny, because they haven’t got “sunburnt” yet.

  • Cometstalker says:

    Thanks for the nice set of additional pictures,
    If possible do this over again a few times, no comments needed as the images talk for themselves.

  • Bill says:

    The ESA Press briefing on 15 Sep14 montioned possible vents near Site J. I have been following these with the hope of detecting changes, but nothing, within the resolution of the imagery, has been seen.

    The first of “Ten at 10” series of images happens to show this study area at a distance of 9.9 Km and a scale of 0.6 M/pixel. In this image, the scalloped surface to the right of the lefthand vent may be a deflationary feature caused by gas outflow. We’ll know more as time goes on because the comet can only get more active.

    I have incorporated this image with some earlier images of the comparative series, including one cross-eyed OSIRIS stereo pair.

    Image Sources: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM/OSIRIS
    CC: BY-SA IGO 3.0

    Processing by Bill Harris


  • Hi Emily–
    We very much appreciate the new “Top 10” images. The “shelly” character of the surface suggests multiple layers of resistant material during the formation of the comet, modified and excavated by processes that remove material from the surface and from under the surface. As you note, the neck area appears to be either the joint from amalgamation of two bodies, but also appears to be perhaps a massive collapse in the area of neck from loss of subsurface ices. Very interesting to follow as the comet becomes more active.
    I note that the OSIRIS Team has presented a report on first scientific results at the DPS Meeting in Tuscon this week. I have seen snaps taken by members of the audience, so we’re getting second-hand and hearsay information that may be misunderstood or confused. Will the presentation (presumably as PowerPoint slides or PDF) or a comprehensive summary be given in your blog? Since the material has now been made public at an open scientific meeting, but is circulating in degraded form, it seems sensible to present this information clearly and publicly instead.

  • Νίκος says:

    I am sorry, but how can these rocks form in microgravity? It seems too much planet-like. How can you tell if some or most part of it came from a more massive planetary object that had enough gravity and geological activity (eg volcanic?) to compress matter into rocks?

  • Robin Sherman says:

    Great to have all these wonderful images Emily. Thank You. I managed to work out where most of them were on the comet. Its just such an awesome place. Even from 7-8Km away every formation, cliff ,crevasse and outcrop just look huge. I’m surprised the navigation team had time to do any navigating, I would spend all day looking at the pictures.

    Saw Bill Shatner’s message. He didn’t get “boldly go” in there which is a bit of a disappointment, because that assuredly is what ESA is doing. So far so good, first obstacle overcome, 3 more to go.

  • Newbie says:

    QUESTION: is there any colour in universe? Despite all technologies we have, why the pictures of comet still in black and white? there is some light in universe, the place where the comet is now is illuminate by the sun, didn’t it? so we should have colours.
    Thnk fr xplntn

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