The Big Picture: Rosetta gets up close and personal with a comet

Thought the Rosetta probe's earlier comet snapshots were special? They don't have a patch on its latest photo session. The ESA spacecraft went on its first dedicated close flyby of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko this weekend, and the images it captured have revealed a whole new level of detail. The picture you see above was taken a mere 5.5 miles above the comet's surface, and shows how the landscape varies wildly over short distances. You'll see everything from relatively smooth plains to fractured hills in a span of just 0.8 miles -- unlike a planet, there's no significant gravity (or many other factors, for that matter) to shape the terrain. Be sure to savor this imagery while you can, by the way. Rosetta's next goal is to get a long-range shot from 158 miles out, so you won't be getting more close-ups any time soon.

[Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM]