In March 2004, ESA's Rosetta spacecraft left Earth in pursuit of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Today, more than 10 years and four billion miles later, Rosetta became the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet. The probe is now soaring through space in tandem with its target – and the view is incredible.
Rosetta is currently flying in front of the comet, mapping its gravitational fields. In the coming weeks, Rosetta will settle into 67P's orbit. It will do so at a distance of around 30 kilometers at first, but will slowly circle in closer. In November, from a projected orbital distance of just 2.5 km, Rosetta will deposit a lander on the comet's surface – all this in preparation for 67P's closest pass of the Sun in more than six years. As it swings around our parent star, the mass of ice and dust will warm, shedding bits of itself along the way; Rosetta – and Philae, the lander – will have unprecedented front row seats to the show.
All that, of course, is yet to come. In the meantime, Rosetta is capturing some of the most detailed views of a comet's surface we've ever seen. Pictures released this morning show the rubber ducky–shaped comet in all its lopsided glory, and some hi-res surface images of what ESA senior scientist Mark McCaughrean called "the most crazy bonkers comet in the solar system":