In a surprised find, scientists analyzing data sent across by the Rosetta mission just before it shut down on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko have discovered the last ever image captured by the spacecraft.
The discovery was made while scientists were sifting through the final telemetry sent by Rosetta. Rosetta has been instrumental in enhancing our knowledge about comets, their composition, their origins and things that we never knew about comets. Along with scientific information, Rosetta sent across photographs of comet’s gas, dust and plasma as it drew closer to the surface.
Just when scientists thought they had all the images captured by Rosetta, they were greeted with one last surprise after scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany managed to reconstruct the final telemetry packets into a sharp image. Scientists involved with the find explain that the way Rosetta’s system was designed was that images were split into telemetry packets aboard the spacecraft before they were transmitted to Earth.
This particular image was taken before touchdown and the image data, corresponding to 23,048 bytes per image, were split into six packets. After three full packets were received, the transmission was interrupted with 12,228 bytes received in total, or just over half of a complete image.
While this particular set of data wasn’t recognised as an image by the automatic processing software, scientists in Göttingen could make sense of these data fragments to reconstruct the image.