On February 14, 2015, the Rosetta spacecraft made a close flyby of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The spacecraft not only passed closer to a comet than any spacecraft had before, but it also became part of a unique space geometry. For a short time during the maneuver – as the spacecraft swept in closest to 67P – the sun, the spacecraft and the comet were almost perfectly aligned. Thus – although the resulting images are of high scientific value – they don’t appear as dramatic as some earlier Rosetta images of the comet, because few shadows can be seen. But there is one exception: as a side-effect of this exceptional geometry, we can see Rosetta’s shadow on the surface of the comet, surrounded by a bright halo-like region.
The images were acquired by OSIRIS, the scientific imaging system on board the Rosetta spacecraft. They have a resolution of 11 centimeters per pixel.
Bottom line: The Rosetta spacecrft caught its own shadow encircled in a wreath of light, on the icy surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on February 14, 2015.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.