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.
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.
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.
These and all other OSIRIS images are now available under a Creative Commons license.
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has reached its closest point to the Sun for the first time since the end of the Rosetta mission and is currently very close to Earth. In this interview, MPS scientists Dr. Holger Sierks and Dr. Carsten Güttler talk about a return to the Rosetta comet, comet simulations in the lab and calibrating 70,000 images.