Rosetta reveals suprising shape of comet's nucleus

Contact-binary comet nucleus observed by Rosetta

The Astronomy Unit's Iwan Williams is a co-Investigator on the Comet Nucleus Sampling Experiment (CONSERT) on the Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The recent images from the space-craft shown below, taken from a distance of approximately 8,000 miles as it approaches the comet, have revealed some very interesting surprises, namely that the nucleus looks to have the structure of a contact-binary comet that is rotating with a period of about 12 hours. An animated version of similar images can be seen at the link. Rendezvous with the comet will occur on 6th August 2014, at which point Rosetta will attempt to enter orbit around the comet. In November 2014, a lander named Philae will attempt to touch down on the comet - not an easy task given the surprises provided by the recent images!