Between 2014 and 2016, the OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) camera onboard ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft captured almost 70,000 images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Now the OSIRIS team has put all of these images online on a dedicated website — the OSIRIS Image Viewer.
The OSIRIS was the main imaging system of ESA’s Rosetta mission. It consisted of two cameras, one narrow-angle and one wide-angle. The narrow-angle camera observed the nucleus of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, while the wide-angle camera was optimized for mapping the gas and dust in space in the vicinity of the comet.
“The first view of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was captured by OSIRIS in March 2014 from a distance of almost 5 million km: an unspectacular starry sky in which only experts can identify one of the numerous bright spots as the target of the Rosetta mission,” the OSIRIS team members said.
“The mission’s last snapshot was taken on September 30, 2016, just a few minutes before the spacecraft touched down on the comet.”
“Between these two images lies an adventure: a space mission that for the first time accompanied a comet on its way through the inner solar system and observed it from close up.”
“This adventure can now be retraced in detail with the help of the OSIRIS Image Viewer.”
Browsing through the archive, users will find snapshots taken while Rosetta was still approaching the already awakening comet, images obtained from Philae’s landing, the fireworks of dust and gas emissions during the comet’s perihelion passage, and pictures documenting the feverish search for Philae’s landing site during the mission’s final weeks.
The images show rugged cliffs, bizarre cracks and gorges, powdery-smooth plains and boulder-covered fields as well as spectacular jets of dust and gas in the vicinity of the comet’s nucleus.
“It is important to us that this treasure trove of data is easily accessible to everyone. No prior knowledge is necessary,” said OSIRIS principal investigator Dr. Holger Sierks, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany.