Thursday, October 16, 2014

ESA Rosetta's lander, Philae snaps image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

A camera aboard Rosetta's lander, Philae, snapped this image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Oct. 7.

Credit: ESA /Rosetta /Philae /CIVA

With an icy comet lurking just over its shoulder, a far-flung European spacecraft snapped a selfie in outer space.

The photographer was Philae, a small lander attached to the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta probe.

At the time (Oct. 7), Philae was just 10 miles (16 kilometers) away from the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but they're about to get much closer.

On Nov. 12, Philae is scheduled to separate from Rosetta to make an unprecedented touchdown on the comet.

After a decade-long, 4-billion-mile (6 billion km) journey from Earth, Rosetta was awakened from a deep sleep in January.

Then, through a series of carefully choreographed maneuvers, the probe arrived at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August and became the first spacecraft to ever orbit a comet.

The new image, released by ESA this week, shows off Rosetta's glinting 52-foot-long (16-meter) solar arrays.

The composition is almost identical to a selfie Philae snapped last month, but at 31 miles (50 kilometers) away, the comet looked much smaller in that photo.

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