Rosetta Spacecraft Snaps Comet Close-Ups During Flyby

This four-image montage of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comprises images taken on Saturday from a distance of 19.6 miles (31.6 kilometers) from the comet's center. Rosetta's parting shot following the close flyby features the comet's small lobe at the top of the image, with the larger lobe in the lower portion of the image set. The raw images don't match up precisely, which means that some features show up in more than one of the pictures of the mosaic.. ESA / Rosetta / NAVCAM

High-resolution images taken by the Rosetta space probe during a Valentine's Day swoop close to the comet it's been tracking for months show boulders on the comet's surface, as well as "stunning details of the contrasting terrain," the European Space Agency said Monday.

ESA said the boulders ranged in size from a few meters (yards) to a few tens of meters, and lay "scattered across the whole surface of the comet." The sun was directly behind Rosetta as the pictures were taken, providing optimal light conditions.

Image: Rosetta view
This mosaic of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko makes use of four images taken by the Rosetta spacecraft on Saturday from from a distance of 5.5 miles (8.9 kilometers) from the surface. The image focuses on the stunning features of the Imhotep region, on the comet’s large lobe. ESA / Rosetta / NAVCAM

Rosetta's instruments also sampled the innermost parts of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko's atmosphere as it swooped in as close as 6 kilometers (4 miles) Saturday to take the pictures. Rosetta, which has been alongside the comet since August, is now moving out to take far-view images.

— The Associated Press