Astronomy Picture of the Day
August 8, 2014

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Part I - CTX Frame)
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Part I - CTX Frame)

Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA and Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF for the additional process. and color.

Today's APOD shows us the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen by the European Space Agency's (or "ESA", for short) Rosetta Spaceccraft OSIRIS Narrow-Angle Camera on August 3, 2014; the picture was taken from a distance of about 177 miles (such as approx. 284,85 Km) from this fascinating and highly unusually-looking Celestial Body. In fact, the curious Double-Lobed Shape of the Cometary Nucleus is revealed in amazing detail here (consider that the image resolution is roughly 17 feet - such as approx. 5,1816 meters - per pixel).

About 4 Km (such as approx. 2,484 miles) across, the Comet Nucleus is presently just over 400 Million KiloMeters (meaning approx. 248.400.000 miles) from our Home Planet Earth, and precisely in-between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. Now Rosetta, the first Spacecraft capable to achieve a delicate orbit around a Comet, will swing up to within approx. 50 Km (about 31,05 miles) from the Comet's Surface and then even closer to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the coming weeks, in order to identify a few candidate sites for the landing of its Probe, "Philae" (an extremely difficult and hazardous landing which shall occur later this year).

This frame (which is an Original ESA - Rosetta Spacecraft's b/w and NON Map-Projected image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 18641) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, magnified to aid the visibility of the details, Gamma corrected and then colorized - according to an educated guess (or, if you wish, an informed speculation) carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga - in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the ESA - Rosetta Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among other things, the existence of different Elements (Minerals) present on the Surface of the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

Note: it is possible (but we, as IPF, have no way to be one-hundred-percent sure of such a circumstance), that the actual luminosity of the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko - as it is in this frame - would appear, to an average human eye, a little bit lower than it has been shown (or, better yet: interpreted) here.

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