Comet 67P becomes a world.

The European Rosetta spacecraft is steadily closing in on Comet 67P (AKA Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko). Even though there have been complaints about ESA image release policy (unlike NASA planetary missions, ESA tends not to make everything available immediately), what has been released is sufficient to take the comet nucleus from being a spot of light to an actual world.

DLR last week released a movie of approach images, while ESA today released a shape model with more detail, prepared from higher resolution images (from the OSIRIS camera) than the publicly released NAVCAM images.

ESA Released shape Model for Comet 67P

ESA Released shape Model for Comet 67P

Rosetta plans to orbit Comet 67/P starting next month (August), and then, in November, 2014, place the Philae lander on the surface of the comet. (The 100 kg lander will actually harpoon the comet to make sure it gets a good grip of the surface.) If all goes well, this mission should revolutionize our understanding of comets; I, for one, can’t wait to see the first images from a cometary surface.