The European Space Agency Rosetta ship sent home several colorful images showing a large pyramidal boulder.
The team members of the Rosetta mission called this 82-foot (25 meters) boulder on comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko "Cheops", in honor of the largest pyramid located in Egypt's famous Giza complex. However, a boulder is much smaller than its teska, which rises 456 feet (139 m) upwards.
Rosetta first photographed Cheops after a comet arrived in orbit in early August. Over the past few weeks, the probe has taken several photos of this object that highlight the rocks and plains surrounding the boulder.
Surface of comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko close-up
"The surface of Cheops seems very rocky and heterogeneous," says Holger Sierks, chief investigator of OSIRIS installed at Rosett, in a statement.
"Particularly intriguing are the small spots on the surface of a boulder, which have the same brightness as the comet's surface texture," Sierks added. “It looks as if the dust covering the comet’s surface has settled in boulder cracks. But of course, it’s too early to draw any conclusions.”
The wide-angle camera OSIRIS made a comet survey at a distance of 22.9 km from the nucleus.
Many properties of Cheops are unknown. Scientists believe that the stones are made of the same substance as the comet itself. It is possible that as soon as the comet becomes more active, a large number of such objects will open to the space probe.
The most detailed photographs of Cheops were taken at a height of 9, 3 miles (15 kilometers). But on October 9, Rosetta flew closer to the comet and took a series of shots from a height of 6 miles (10 km) above the surface. Rosetta, which was launched in March 2004, will accompany comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko until at least next year, in order to see the changes occurring in the comet as it approaches the Sun. Rosetta is the first successful mission, which managed to put a probe into orbit of a comet. In addition, the mission will make another achievement. On November 12, a small descent vehicle called Philae will be deployed on the Rosett, which will try to make the first soft landing on the comet.