67P on 3rd August 2014. Copyright: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Rosetta has become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, having successfully intercepted comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on the 6th of August 2014 after a journey spanning 10 years.
Rosetta now lies 405 million km from Earth, travelling with comet 67P towards the inner solar system at 55,000 km per hour. Rosetta will now accompany the comet for over a year as it swings past the sun and back out towards Jupiter. Today marked the last of the manoeuvres to align Rosetta with the speed and trajectory of the comet in order to allow it to enter orbit.
Some of the features of 67P have already been observed, with a series of increasingly clear images of the surface taken by the orbiter's OSIRIS camera, as well as water loss measurements from MIRO and the determination of the comet's surface temperature by VIRTIS. These have revealed 67P's "duck-like" shape and its predominatly dark surface, suggesting a significant covering of dusty particles rather than ice.
Animation from Rosetta Navcam. Copyright: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam
Rosetta is currently just 100 km from the surface of comet 67P and will edge closer over the next few months, as close as 30 km and maybe even less. During this time more of the orbiter instruments will be active, collecting data in order to determine the surface properties of the comet. The cameras will also remain active, mapping the surface in an attempt to find a suitable landing site for the Philae lander. The primary landing site will be identified in mid-September before Philae is eventually deployed, currently scheduled for the 11th of November.