Scientists have built the most detailed model yet of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko using data collected by the Rosetta spacecraft. F. Preusker et al./Astron. Astrophys.

Astronomy and astrophysics

3D map exposes a comet’s every bump and dimple

New high-resolution model of comet 67P reveals fine features only tens of centimetres in size.

Planetary scientists have generated the best picture so far of the shape of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft orbited between 2014 and 2016.

A team led by Frank Preusker at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin analysed images taken by Rosetta to create a high-resolution, 3D view of the comet’s famous ‘rubber ducky’ shape. The team used more than 1,500 Rosetta images to expand on earlier studies of the comet to include all of its southern hemisphere.

The resulting map — which has a resolution of tens of centimetres — shows a lumpy, irregular surface. The work helped the scientists to pinpoint the comet’s volume (18.56 cubic kilometres) and density (537.8 kilograms per cubic metre), allowing them to fully understand how it looked before it flew past the Sun.