The Rosetta spacecraft, which is owned by the European Space Agency sent back some incredible images of Comet 67P, which it has been analyzing for some time now, and is on a mission to study the surface of the comet more closely in the coming weeks.
The boulder that appears to sit on the surface of the comet is being called “Cheops,” and is named that after the largest pyramid in Egypt’s famous Giza complex. While the pyramid shaped boulder is significantly smaller than its counterpart here on Earth, it does boast a rather unique size and shape. And of course, begs the question, how did it even get there in the first place.
Rosetta first noted the existence of the boulder, on the surface of the comet in the beginning of August, but after closer evaluation, and taking more pictures over the last several weeks, even more detail was revealed about the shape, and potential size of the strange object.
Scientists believe that the boulder is covered in dust, which has settled in the smaller portions, or cracks of the comet. However, that can’t be verified until they get closer, and can gain more insight as to what the comet really has to offer. Additionally, the sides of the object are incredibly irregular, and abnormal. Cheops though appears to offer something that might give a little more insight as to what comets even contain in the first place, or how they pick things up along their way through space. It would appear on this particular boulder on 67P, that there is material that creates contrast or a shine.
While scientists don’t know what that specifically means, they did say that it could mean almost anything. So far, the closest photos were taken at 9.3 miles altitude, which is by far the closest they have gotten thus far in studying the comet. Rosetta launched in 2004, and they will be working over the next year to continue studying 67P until it gets too far away, and too close to the sun.
This is the same comet that, next month, Rosetta is scheduled to make history by landing a smaller craft on the surface to take measurements with the 5 tools that the smaller craft, Philae, has on board.