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This week the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft closed in on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and resolved this unusual shape. Its spinning fairly quickly and stretching around 3 miles across at the widest. Astronomers call it a binary comet, presumably made of two smaller objects that didn’t quite finish merging an unknown time ago.
We may know more soon. If all goes well, Rosetta will enter close orbit and try to land instruments on the strange object next month:
This week’s images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko reveal an extraordinarily irregular shape. We had hints of that in last week’s images and in the unscheduled previews that were seen a few days ago, and in that short time it has become clear that this is no ordinary comet. Like its name, it seems that comet 67P/C-G is in two parts. What the spacecraft is actually seeing is the pixelated image shown at (left), which was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow angle camera on 14 July from a distance of 12 000 km.
A smoothed, computer enhanced image is shown above on the right. Oh and Kudos on the 3-D interactive location video showing Rosetta’s trip through the solar posted here.