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Scientists Show Off Comet Close-Ups from Rosetta Probe

The team behind the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission has released intriguing images showing the active surface of a comet.
Image: Comet's lobes
A section of the smaller of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko's two lobes as seen through Rosetta’s narrow-angle camera from a distance of about 5 miles (8 kilometers) to the surface on Oct. 14, 2014.0 The image is featured on the cover of Friday's issue of the journal Science.ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team

When the scientists behind the European Space Agency's $1.6 billion Rosetta mission to a comet came out with scores of pages' worth of studies on Thursday, they released something else that made just as big of an impression: a set of pictures showing Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko's surface in detail.

The images reveal boulders and sharp mountains, features that look like sand dunes, cracks and pits where dust and gas are leaking out into space, and a place where some sort of subsurface blast may have blown a piece of the comet a short distance away. For the full set, check out ESA's Rosetta slideshow. Here are a few highlights.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has shown activity in the form of jets for many months, but this image from Nov. 22, 2014, reveals that the large-scale jets seen in previous images can now be resolved into many smaller jets emerging from the surface, which seem to merge together further away from the comet nucleus.ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team
Pictures from Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-image camera show an active pit in the Seth region of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was acquired on Aug. 28, 2014, from a distance of about 40 miles (60 kilometers). In the right-side picture, the contrast has been enhanced to reveal fine structures in the shadow of the pit, which are interpreted as jetlike emanations from the pit.ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team
An image from Rosetta's OSIRIS camera shows the boulder-strewn, smooth Hapi region in Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s neck, with the Hathor cliff face to the right.ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team



— Alan Boyle