From the July 2015 issue

Web Extra: Under Rosetta’s watchful eye

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft continues to beam back stunning images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from its perch above the icy visitor.  
By | Published: July 27, 2015
Part of the comet’s large lobe fills this close-up image of 67P. The field shows the stark contrast between the dust-covered smooth areas of the Ash region and the more brittle material of the Seth region.
Nearly a year ago, on August 6, 2014, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta probe entered orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Three months later, on November 12, the Philae lander bounced to a precarious stop on the comet’s surface. For 57 hours, the lander worked feverishly to explore its surroundings before battery power ran out. Philae then went into hibernation, awaking in June once its solar panels could turn the power back on.

Yet not all is rosy with the lander, apparently — it last communicated with Rosetta two weeks ago (on July 9). Part of the problem appears to be in establishing a solid link between the two spacecraft. The task has become harder as the comet approaches the Sun and becomes more active, forcing mission controllers to move Rosetta farther from the nucleus and making communications between the two probes difficult. The comet’s activity should peak around its closest approach to the Sun, which arrives August 12/13.

ESA scientists hope to reestablish consistent contact with Philae so that it will be able to monitor the surface during this critical period. But in any case, Rosetta will continue its daring reconnaissance from above as scientists strive to learn more about these visitors from the solar system’s depths.

Here we present some of the best recently released images from Rosetta showing many incredible landforms on Comet 67P’s surface.