ESA scientists piece together last image captured by Rosetta probe

Sept. 28 (UPI) — European Space Agency scientists have pieced together one final image from the Rosetta probe’s last telemetry packets, collected right before the craft crash landed on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Roughly a year ago, Rosetta attempted to land on the snowman-shaped comet. The landing didn’t go as smoothly as hoped, but the probe collected a wealth of data and images before it tumbled into a sunless crater.

Until recently, scientists thought they’d already seen Rosetta’s last image, but while parsing the probe’s last bits of data, ESA researchers found a few remaining telemetry packets. Scientists were able to piece the data fragments into one last snapshot of Comet 67P.

“The last complete image transmitted from Rosetta was the final one that we saw arriving back on Earth in one piece moments before the touchdown at Sais,” Holger Sierks, principal investigator for Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, explained in a news release. “Later, we found a few telemetry packets on our server and thought, wow, that could be another image.”

Rosetta’s images were split into data packets and then pieced back together once they had been relayed back to Earth. The data packets comprising the new image were only partially received before communication with the probe was lost. Computers at ground control didn’t recognize the last few packets as an image and thus were ignored by researchers until now.

Because the new image was pieced together without the full package of telemetry packets, it’s a bit blurrier than other Rosetta images. Still, the image can help scientists better pinpoint the probe’s exact impact location.