It may look like a lonely mountain, but this landscape is out of our world – it’s one of the closest colour images ever taken of the surface of a comet.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft took this close up of the tortured and jagged surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from a distance of just 29 kilometres.
Comet 67P is a four kilometre wide frozen mountain of rock and ice, hurtling through space on a long six and a half year orbit around the Sun.
Mission managers used Rosetta’s OSIRIS multi-colour camera, which has 12 different colour filter wheels to capture this image.
Comet-67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is blacker than coal dust, with only four per cent of sunlight being reflected from the surface.
To counter this effect, the image had the brightness and contrast enhanced to give a more meaningful view for humans to see.
Rosetta made history in August when it became the first spacecraft to go into orbit around a comet.
On November 11, Rosetta will make history again when it deploys a tiny lander craft called Philae, which will attempt to touch down on the comet’s desolately beautiful surface.
Mission managers have now announced that Philae will target Site J for the landing, an intriguing location which scientists say offers both nearby active regions for study and minimum risk to the lander.
Rosetta and Philae will study Comet 67P for the next year to unlock some of the secrets of this primordial vestige of the early solar system.