At 5:29 a.m. EDT (9:29 a.m. GMT) on Aug. 6, 2014, the European Space Agency's comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta was a comet-chaser no more.
After 10 years and 3.7 billion miles, Rosetta reached its target, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, to begin an unprecedented mission in cometary orbit -- the first mission to ever do so. Rosetta will remain in orbit as the comet swings past close approach of the sun, observing changes in the icy body's structure as they travel with one another.
Comets possess some of the most pristine material in the solar system, having been in deep freeze since before the formation of the planets. So through Rosetta's instruments we'll not only be studying a fascinating celestial body, we'll be probing billions of years into the past. To help achieve this goal, in November Rosetta will even drop a small probe, called Philae, to attempt the first ever landing on a comet's surface.
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But for now, ESA has released the most detailed, and stunning, photos of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to date as Rosetta settles into orbit around the 2.5 mile-wide 'dirty snowball.'
Shown in this image is 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in its entirety taken by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on Aug. 3 from a distance of 177 miles.