You’ll never stand on the surface of a comet, but here’s how it might look and feel.
Twitter user @landru79 is obsessed with space and created a spectacular GIF of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using still images captured by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft.
— landru79 (@landru79) April 23, 2018
The GIF has the feel of an old-time movie. It lasts for just a moment, but leaves an indelible impression and a glimpse of what it might be like to land on an alien space object.
The Rosetta mission wrapped up in 2016 when the orbiter crashed — on purpose — into the comet’s surface, but scientists are still studying the data it collected and the ESA continues to update the image archives.
Mark McCaughrean, the ESA’s senior adviser for science and exploration, shared @landru79’s GIF and offered up some explanations of what we’re seeing. What looks like snow flying around is actually a combination of stars in the distance and dust blowing around the comet’s surface.
Pretty wild 😵 Lovely stack of images from the latest #Rosetta OSIRIS image release. My guess is that this is dust quite close to the spacecraft as it moves by, giving the illusion that it’s “snow” falling on Comet #67P kilometres away in the background. Cool though 👍 https://t.co/SYGBKecKEP
— Mark McCaughrean (@markmccaughrean) April 23, 2018
McCaughrean also identified the stars in the background as coming from the constellation Canis Major.
Comet 67P is a pretty dusty place. Rosetta’s imaging system picked up a great look as itin early 2015. The mission is also famous for its , which bounced and landed in shadows when it tried to touch down on the comet in 2014.
The GIF, which has gotten thousands of likes on Twitter and has been shared across other sites like Reddit, is a reminder of the magic of Rosetta and how it unveiled the secrets of a distant comet hurtling through space.