Look at this amazing GIF. That snowy-looking scene wasn’t captured on Mount Everest, or in some canyon in Antarctica. That’s the view from a lander on the surface of a comet.
Remember Rosetta? That comet-chasing European Space Agency (ESA) probe that deployed (and accidentally bounced) its lander Philae on the surface of Comet 67P? This GIF is made up of images Rosetta beamed back to Earth, which have been freely available online for a while. But it took Twitter user landru79 processing and assembling them into this short, looped clip to reveal the drama they contained.
As several astronomers and casual observers pointed out in the replies to landru79’s original tweet, the “snowstorm” depicted almost certainly isn’t a true snowfall of the sort experienced on Earth and other planets. Instead, there are likely two or three different phenomena creating the snowy effect.
Landru79 posted another GIF on Twitter, which freezes the starfield in the clip in place, making it clearer that the comet is moving but the stars are mostly staying still.
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