The Rosetta spacecraft has caught a first glimpse of its destination comet since waking up from deep-space hibernation on January 20. The first images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (circled above) were taken on March 20 and 21 by Rosetta’s wide-angle and narrow-angle cameras.
Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.
The two images were taken at a distance of about 5 million kilometers and required a series of exposures of 60 to 300 seconds. The imaging is part of six weeks of activities dedicated to preparing the spacecraft’s science instruments for close-up study of the comet. Rosetta has been traveling through the solar system for 10 years, and will arrive at the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August. Rosetta was reactivated January 20 after a record 957 days in hibernation.
The three U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta are the Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter, Alice (an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph), and the Ion and Electron Sensor.