This image may not look like all that much; however, it is an image that shows exactly what we can accomplish when we put our minds to it. Although it looks like any old rocky beach, the dusty grains in this image are actually many, many miles from Earth.
This image was taken by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Lander Imaging System (ROLIS), which was on the Philae Lander. The photo was taken just 9 meters above the comet that Philae was soon to land on.
The photograph shows the Agilkia landing site, just a tiny portion of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Ultimately, this detailed image (the scale of this image is 0.95 cm per pixel) reveals the granular texture of the comet’s surface and a plethora of fragmented material. If you were expecting comets to be completely covered in ice, kind of like a skating rink, Philae’s picture will give you an idea of what the surface of a comet really looks like.
Part of Philae’s landing gear can be seen in the top corners of the image, and scientists assert that the rocky material (known as “regolith”) may look flat, but actually reaches a depth of 2 meters in some places.
As you may have heard, earlier this summer, the stranded Philae lander finally woke up after seven long months of hibernation. The probe went silent three days after landing on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Unfortunately, it landed in a shaded spot, which made it difficult for the small probe to recharge its systems via light from the Sun. However, the long-awaited signals were received by the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany at 22:28 CEST (4:28 p.m. EST) on Saturday, June 13.
Science teams are still working with Philae to try and recover more data.