After a 10-year, 4-billion-mile journey, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe reached its final destination on Wednesday: comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The spacecraft snapped a series of photos during its approach, revealing the comet’s craggy surface.
“It’s incredible how full of variation this surface is,” said Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany who is principal investigator of the onboard scientific imaging system. “We have never seen anything like this before in such great detail.”
Rosetta will orbit the comet through the end of 2015. One of its goals is to find a landing site for the Philae lander, which is scheduled to touch down on the comet’s surface in the fall.
The comet chaser is named after the Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Scientists hope the spacecraft will reveal more information about how the solar system evolved by studying the comet, an untouched traveling chunk of the solar system.