Rosetta orbiting the comet
Rosetta orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and scanning its surface to make scientific measurements. The colours of the beams and their shape on the surface represent two different instruments imaging and analysing the comet.
The Rosetta orbiter has a total of 11 instruments to study the characteristics and environment of the comet. Rosetta is taking images of the comet at a variety of different wavelengths, measuring its gravity, mass, density, internal structure, shape and rotation, and assessing the properties of its gaseous, dust-laden atmosphere, or coma. It is also probing the surrounding plasma environment and analysing how it interacts with the solar wind.
Rosetta also carries a small lander, Philae, which will descend to the surface of the comet and make in situ measurements using its suite of 10 instruments.
The animation is not to scale; the comet is about 4.1 km wide and Rosetta is 32 m across including its solar wings, and it conducts scientific investigations at a range of altitudes. The comet shape is based on a true comet shape model.