Comet 67P Fires Up Its Jets
And the show is on! The dramatic images above show the actively jetting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, imaged by Rosetta’s NavCam from a distance of about 28 km (17 miles). Each is a mosaic of four separate NavCam acquisitions, and I adjusted and tinted them in Photoshop to further enhance the jets’ visibility. (You can view the original image mosaics here and here.)
The small bright spots and flecks in the images are bits of icy debris and dust that have been ejected from the comet. In the second image you can see what looks like deflection of the jets from the comet’s lower lobe off the underside of the upper lobe as well as a shadow of the upper section being cast down through the reflective icy spray.
These views are just a hint at what’s in store; 67P’s jet activity will only be increasing in the coming weeks and months and, this Saturday, Rosetta will be swooping down for an extreme close pass over its surface. Luckily for us we get to experience the adventure vicariously through Rosetta!