Descending to a comet

Descending to a comet

Released

30/07/2015 8:00 pm

Copyright

ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

Description

Images taken by Philae’s ROsetta Lander Imaging System, ROLIS, trace the lander’s descent to the first landing site, Agilkia, on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014. The first image was taken just over 3 km from the comet, and indicates the position of Agilkia and the area covered by the next image in the sequence, taken just 67 m away. The six images that follow were taken at approximately 10 second intervals prior to landing, with the final image of the sequence acquired 9 m above the touchdown site. The time the images were acquired, along with distance from the surface and image resolution, are marked on each image. The final slide is annotated with the estimated touchdown position and orientation of Philae, which has been calculated to within ±20 cm.

The images taken shortly before touchdown progressively reveal a surface comprising metre-size blocks of diverse shapes and random orientations, coarse regolith with grain sizes of 10–50 cm and, in the closest image, granules less than 10 cm across. The regolith in this region is thought to extend to a depth of 2 m in places, but seems to be free from fine-grained dust deposits at the resolution of the images.

The largest boulder, seen only in the images taken from distances between 67.4 m and 28.9 m, measures about 5 m high, with a peculiar bumpy structure and fracture lines running through it that suggest erosional forces are working to fragment the comet’s boulders into smaller pieces. The boulder also has a tapered ‘tail’ of debris behind it, yielding clues as to how particles lifted up from one part of the eroding comet are deposited elsewhere. This boulder can also be viewed in an anaglyph image here.

The images are also available individually:
Comet from 3.1 km
Comet from 67.4 m
Comet from 57.9 m
Comet from 48.5 m
Comet from 38.6 m
Comet from 28.9 m
Comet from 18.8 m
Comet from 9 m

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