Rosetta Just Took Its First Glimpse of Its Destination Comet

Rosetta, the comet-exploring spacecraft, has finally gotten within sight of the comet it's been traveling towards for the first time since waking up from its 2-year long slumber through deep space — and it sent back the pictures to prove it.

Top image: Wide angle view of comet taken with Rosetta's OSIRIS camera, one of two images returned. Via ESA.

Two images, taken with Rosetta's dual imaging camera that captures both narrow (see below) and wide images (top), show the comet as still just a pinprick of light in space.

Rosetta Just Took Its First Glimpse of Its Destination Comet

But, as Rosetta continues to close the distance, increasingly detailed images of the comet will be sent back. Researchers at ESA have put together this map of Rosetta's trajectory, along with the projected images we'll most likely see from Rosetta's OSIRIS camera as it moves closer and closer to the comet prior to landing.

Until just a few months ago, Rosetta was traveling through space in hibernation, as it moved closer to the comet it was designed to explore. As it approached the sun (its primary source of power), scientists over at the ESA began pinging it, then held their breath and hoped that it would wake up. It did.

Rosetta Just Took Its First Glimpse of Its Destination Comet

Before Rosetta entered its hibernation period, though, it captured a few extremely long-range shots from over 160 million kilometers away (seen here, in combination with observatory images from ESO) which, after extensive processing, revealed the comet it would be traveling towards.

These new images of the comet, coming in from just 5 million kilometers (and closing) are the best look we've seen of the comet this far, and Rosetta's first look since waking up. As Rosetta continues to close the distance for its rendezvous with the comet — one of the most anticipated scientific events of the year, projected to happen in August — closer and closer images of the comet will continue to be sent back, giving us an even better look at just what's out there in space.