Last month we landed a robot on a comet moving Mach 110, and got 64 hours of science from the intrepid little lander on everything from magnetic fields (that sound like a choir of Predators) to organic molecules. Adding to this unprecedented description of these ancient, icy bodies rocketing around our solar system, the Rosetta spacecraft has now shown us what color Comet 67P is.
According to research to be presented at the December meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Comet 67P isn’t the grey blob we’ve seen in selfies. It’s more of a reddish-brown accretion of rock and ice the size of a Borg Cube:
Captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera, this view of Comet 67P is the first “true color” photograph of a comet. It’s not quite true color because of how Rosetta’s camera captured the image. This is a composite image taken with a blue, a green, and a red filter, all stitched together. The comet and the spacecraft were both moving during these exposures, which is why the composite looks a bit blurry. However, thanks to the incredibly smart Redditors populating r/space/, we can see each exposure. Redditor Hexorg made a GIF showing the movement between the R, G, and B exposures:
And Redditor IG-64 used the magic of Photoshop to sharpen the image:
Capturing this view of Comet 67P isn’t just for show either. By analyzing its color, scientists can infer how a comet is structured, what kind of surface characteristics it has, and maybe even the activity within the comet’s wispy atmosphere, or coma.
Once the research is published around mid-December, the scientists promise that we’ll get an even better look at the color of a comet. I’m hoping that we are wrong, and it turns out to be purple.