The Rosetta spacecraft is slowly spiraling closer to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, where it will soon release a small landing craft called Philae. This mission isn’t just about getting to the surface, though. Rosetta is equipped with a range of instruments that will study 67P from orbit. Even before Philae makes its trip to the surface, we’re being treated to some spectacular views of the surface of the comet. Check the gallery above for a ton of great shots from Rosetta, courtesy of the European Space Agency (ESA).
This mission will be the first time we’ve landed a probe on the surface of a comet, but it’s also affording scientists an unprecedented view of P67’s surface. The makeup of comets like P67 was an unknown before Rosetta arrived in orbit. As such, the Philae lander was designed with powerful harpoons that will anchor it to the surface when it lands even if the team was unable to find a smooth landing zone.
As it turns out, P67 looks almost planetary. There are hills, valleys, and giant boulders strewn across the landscape–plenty of possible locations for a landing. Of particular interest is a large pyramid-shaped boulder that was spotted a few weeks ago. It stands out in a plane dotted with smaller objects. The boulder, which stands 82 feet tall (25 m), has been named Cheops due to the roughly pyramidal shape. You can see a few images of Cheops from different altitudes in the gallery above, as well as the close-up below.
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