Just 10 days away from arriving at its destination, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has already gotten its first good looks at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, revealing a surprising double-lobed nucleus (that was immediately likened to a bathtub toy duck.)
Now, computer modeling reveals more details of the comet's true shape, making it appear somewhat less rubber-duckish and a bit more like... well, I'm not really sure what. Perhaps a wad of chewing gum.
Still, at nearly 2.5 miles across, that's one big wad of gum!
Hubble Discovers Weird Six-Tailed 'Comet'
The three-dimensional rendering and animation above was created from data acquired by Rosetta's OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) narrow-angle camera from July 14-24, as the spacecraft was closing in on the comet from distances of 12,000 km (7,456 miles) to less than 3,500 km (2,174 miles).
While it might appear that surface features are visible, it's still not yet known if all the bumps and dark spots really are actual landforms or just the result of image artifacts. But Rosetta has since gotten even closer, and better, more detailed images are coming in by the day, gradually filling in missing information.
Below are images of the comet acquired by OSIRIS on July 20, 2014, from a distance of about 5,500 km (3,417 miles)... about the distance between New York and London. In these views the comet's terrain becomes quite a bit clearer, revealing additional bumps and what seems to be a crater on the comet's "head."