40 metres above a comet

Here is an image that was taken by the ROLIS imager on Rosetta’s lander Philae when it was about 40 m above the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The image shows that the surface of the comet is covered by dust and debris ranging from mm to meter sizes. The large block in the top right corner is 5 m in size. In the same corner the structure of the Philae landing is visible.


The surface of Comet 67P/C-G from the lander’s down-looking descent camera ROLIS. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR


The aim of the ROLIS experiment is to study the texture and microstructure of the comet’s surface. ROLIS (ROsetta Lander Imaging System) has been developed by the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin.



  • frankebe says:

    Curious that all the pictures from Rosetta show us what we interpret as dust—lots and lots of dust—but the picture from Philae shows clean rock. What’s your guess?

  • AndreH says:

    Someone else said in the other thread: “All the dust has been lifted off by electrical forces an is now in the coma”. Sorry, no it is clearly not!

    • Tom Jones says:

      Actually we don’t know. The physics of dusty plasmas indicates that the mass of the dust particular will determine whether any electric fields are able to affect smaller particles.

      As the comet gets closers to the sun, the solar wind density will increase, and may increase the charging of the comet, and produce dust fountains and even jets.

  • Dave says:

    There are a lot of smudges on this picture, by the 5 meter rock and around the darker area. Some near the areas where there are conical depressions.
    Could these be emissions from under the dust through the conical holes?

  • Mohase says:

    Wow! Congratulations ESA!
    But please dont hold back the images for so long! Every some hours a new picture from Philae…..;-/ You want people understand what you are doing and why? Then give them some “food” for their imagination and passion…..

  • rui says:

    Thanks a lot for the image, Claudia.
    I wonder if philae´s ROLIS was programmed to take more pictures during descent. if so, would there be a chance that a picture of the final touchdown spot was taken? (there would have been a ~2hr-time interval durng the first bounce to do so… unless it immediately switched to the close-up mode).
    Anyway, thx again

  • Walter Greene says:

    These are the type of images I’d like to see. I don’t care for computer simulated landing videos. If actual real-time videos aren’t available, this type of static images are best. Is there a panoramic photo of it’s location yet?

  • Cleber says:

    Great did guys! Great did.

  • Gabriel says:

    Agilkia base here. The Eagle has landed!

  • analia says:

    la antena que transmite estas imagenes esta en la provincia de Neuquén, sur de Argentina!!!!

    • Vinicius Abolis says:

      We can not be individualistic in saying that it was a country X or country Y, but it is something historical, epic where the Planet Earth must be represented as a whole and undivided.

      • matias says:

        Vinicius, it’s the whole planet I agree, however we feel proud of being part of this, who wouldn’t? it’s like your son doing something for the school football team, it was the team but you feel proud of your son who contributed and you may feel you want to post it!

  • Bill says:

    I’m wondering if Philae did not bump up against that rock at the top of this ROLIS landing image after she bounced. It’s the nearest large rock…


  • Guilich says:

    Well aimed and well shot. Too weird that the two systems designed to avoid kickbacks did not work.
    Good picture as well. The targeted place was really fine. Too bad that Photoshop has already worked, on it, just down the second big boulder on the left. Something to hide ?
    Regardless, congratulations to you all for those intense moments. Many thanks to you all.

  • Robin Sherman says:

    What a brilliant accomplishment this image is. The boulder enables us to link it directly to the OSIRIS image of Agilkia. So the comet is not totally black. We can see shades of red and green towards the top of the image and hints of blue in the bottom of the image. What appeared to be an even, smooth layer of dust, possibly a metre or so thick, is close up completely different. Scattered shards and pebbles lie on the surface. There is dust but its thickness is quite variable.

    The most striking thing in this image is clear evidence of outgassing from two small pits/vents. It is clear that this activity moves the lighter fine grained material from the surface. There are many of these holes and pits, which might have been active spots of degassing and responsible for the clearing of the “dust” from some areas. The large boulder is almost devoid of dust and is quite a bit lighter in colour, suggesting more recent exposure. In fact it appears dust is still moving around the base of it. Areas that are uncovered do appear more solid and could explain why Philae bounced. It is reported that she only sank 4cm into the surface. This image would seem to vindicate that, what “dust” there is does not seem more than a few centimetres thick.

    The appearance of dark red coloured Tholins was expected on the surface and here we have evidence that this might indeed be the case. If we are lucky there might be another couple of images from even closer that have yet to be processed. The close up ROLIS images of the surface where Philae ended up will hopefully show the nature of the “dust”, shards and “pebbles”.

  • Raymond says:

    Nice picture!

    Congratulations ESA!
    Such a special performance.


    The Netherlands

  • Gertjan Faas says:

    Congratulations to the team behind this mission for the fantastic ongoing scientific endevaour. Followed the mission since its launch. Great to see its success.

  • David Sadler says:

    Congratulations isn’t a sufficient expression for an accomplishment such as this. So much work and cooperation among so many disciplines, teams and partners. Simply historic. Let’s bring one back to Earth! Very anxious to see how the comet behaves as it approaches the Sun. Can we bury the ‘dirty snowball’ standard model of comets?

  • Hello Mankind says:

    Congratulation to all the people who brought us this amazing picture and this amazing achievement. This is no less than sending human to moon.

    Thank you !!!

  • jhs says:

    I still cant beleive it:
    they hit with the first touchdown the planned landing site whithin a few ten meters.
    Consider how to do that:
    you must know the exact position, speed and orientation of the orbiter Rosetta – but how ?
    Orientation can be determined from position of stars – but position relative to the comet ?
    From images of the comet and identification of reference points on the surface you can get somehow an idea. You have to identify many points in many images to become precise. The 3D model published some weeks ago is probably result of that. From every new image of the comet you then can try to identify the position. And then there is rotation, celestial mechanics between the rosetta and the comet with distributed mass – and moving gas …
    And you move and orient the sonde with thrusters which just make pffff …
    still incredible.

    CONGRATULATIONS to the flight control team and everybody involved !

  • Ks says:

    Have they found any form of liquid yet on the comet?

  • SG says:

    It’s a shame the public outreach aspect of this is so poor. The first images from Philae from 40 metres away appeared on another twitter feed: If you guys have the images, why not release them!? My 6 yr old son was so excited, but now there’s been 1 picture in 24hrs and we’re all getting a bit bored. Okay so you can’t find the thing, but I’m sure you have piles of images to keep us coming back! What an amazing achievement.
    From the public outreach side, the front website has 50 different links, none of which bring all the info together in one place, so quite poorly managed. Ironically, the new york times and the Guardian had some of the best rosetta images on display.

    show us more!

  • Indira Montejo Lamas says:

    The amazing to a moveable object.!

  • Marc Couprie says:

    You just know this is in the top 10 for astronomical achievements.

  • Tom Barnaby says:

    Let’s first get back to tors. According to the cosmologists comets are dirty snowballs. EU people have argued for many years that they are not at all dirty snowballs. Other sane people have also argued for many years that they are not dirty snowballs. Now the Rosetta images clearly show that this comet is rock with rocky detritus, not a dirty snowball. So, will the dirty snowballers now admit that they have always been wrong? Or will they deny yet again what is before their eyes? With the demise of the dirty snowball rational thought must be brought to bear. Obviously the cosmologists have failed hopelessly with their ‘theories’; as usual.

  • Dino (Bosnia) says:

    It is amazing that these scientist didnt have some B plan for energy shortage if things go wrong (like this landing in dark spot). Wirelles charging by Rosseta maybe? or to be run by nuclear power like Cassini. For the amount of money spent its not wise to not have backup plan. So called scientist should know better.

  • Nodyam says:

    Amazing, but true. No space exploit of such gravity has resulted in such paucity of images. They are certainly enough to be tantalizing, but commentary seems almost non-existent. Why is ESA being so elusive???

Comments are closed.