Rosetta image archive complete

All images taken by the scientific camera system OSIRIS during Rosetta’s twelve-year mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko are now publicly available.

In the period from 2004 to 2016, ESA’s spacecraft Rosetta has sent nearly 100,000 images back to Earth. The last of these are now available on the internet. Over the past few weeks, the existing archives have been supplemented by the still missing images from the scientific camera system OSIRIS from the mission’s last phase at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Some of them document important milestones from the last two months, such as the descent of Rosetta to the comet’s surface.

Compilation of images taken by Rosetta’s high resolution OSIRIS camera during the mission’s final hours at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As it moved closer towards the surface it scanned across an ancient pit and sent back images showing what would become its final resting place.

The nearly 100,000 images taken in the course of the Rosetta mission include approximately 20,000 shots from the ten-year journey to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko showing Earth, Mars and two asteroids, as well as the entire flood of images from 2014 to 2016. Since the beginning of the mission, the OSIRIS team, headed by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen and the European Space Agency (ESA), has gradually published these data. ESA's Archive Image Browser contains all the images captured by the scientific camera system OSIRIS and the navigation cameras during the mission. The Planetary Science Archive comprises all data from Rosetta's eleven scientific instruments. Both archives have now been completed.

"The fact that all images are now archived and thus available to the entire world is a great feeling," says Dr. Holger Sierks from the MPS, OSIRIS Principal Investigator. The images that have now been added date from the end of July 2016 to 30 September 2016. On this day, the spacecraft touched-down on the comet, ending the most successful cometary mission in the history of space research.

This image from Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera captures an intriguing boulder with a very flat face, close to the bottom of the scene. It was taken on 17 September 2016 by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on the spacecraft’s fourteenth ellipse, from a distance of 1.9 km from the surface. The image scale is about 3.5 cm/pixel at the centre of the image.

In the two months before, Rosetta's orbit around the comet had steadily changed and brought the spacecraft on elliptical trajectories closer and closer to the surface, sometimes to a distance of less than two kilometers. During the last several hours of descent, hundreds of other shots of the comet were taken at close range. These last pictures show the landing site from a height of only about 25 meters with a resolution of 2.5 millimeters per pixel. "This last image sequence is unique and gives us completely new insights into the geology and nature of Rosetta’s comet. The scientific analyses are still going on, "says Sierks.

Images taken on 30 August 2016 represent another important mission milestone: In these, MPS researchers finally discovered Rosetta’s lander Philae. On November 12, 2014, Philae had landed on the surface of the comet, but then rebounded and came to a halt in extremely rugged terrain. In the midst of the rubble and the steep cliffs, the lander could not be identified for more than a year and a half.

Very close to the left hand edge of this image in the top half, is a thin vertical line with a broad top. This is one of Philae’s three legs sticking up from behind an obscuring boulder, illustrating the difficulty in spotting the lander on the comet’s chaotic surface. The scale of the image is 4.6 cm/pixel, with Philae’s foot estimated to be about 2.5 km away when Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera took the image on 30 August 2016. The contrast of the image has been stretched to reveal Philae’s foot against the shadowed background.

These and all other OSIRIS images are now available under a Creative Commons license.

Other Interesting Articles

Go to Editor View