Celestial Bodies

3D Print a Stunningly Detailed Model of the Rosetta Comet

Rosetta Comet
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Want to 3D print your own comet? The European Space Agency (ESA) has created an accurate 3D model of the Rosetta Comet, and the files are free to download.

While NASA hogs all the limelight for 3D printing in space, the European Space Agency (ESA) has made some exciting discoveries of its own.

The Rosetta Comet — known more specifically as Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko — has been captured in greater detail than ever thanks to a 3D shape model, a geometrical representation of the celestial body.

The Rosetta space probe was first launched in 2004 to explore Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Last summer, as they were about to rendezvous with the comet, the Rosetta mission operations were faced with an unexpected challenge. While trying to maneuver (and land on) the comet, they discovered that the comet looked entirely different than expected.

Close-up shots from the scientific camera OSIRIS showed that it was in fact a “double-lobed object.”

Rosetta Comet
Double Lobes all the way! (Image: ESA)

It quickly became apparent that early models of the comet were completely inaccurate. Over time, however, the probe had sent back enough data for scientists to develop a complete picture of what the comet actually looks like. In just one period this year, between May 6 to June 30, a total of 681 images of the comet had already been gathered.

After using stereophotoclinometry, which utilizes stereo images to identify slopes, the surface height could be inferred. This information was then projected onto a basic shape model to create a highly detailed model of the comet. There could be as many as 1000 landmarks on these models, all identified using NAVCAM images.

This detailed model now allows scientists to navigate the comet with ease. Each day, the positions of specific landmarks are examined in order to plot a new trajectory for the Rosetta probe.

3D Print the Rosetta Comet for Free

Fortunately for us, these 3D models are easily converted to 3D printables. In honor of the great discovery, ESA has made all of the 3D shape models of the Rosetta Comet freely available to download.

They can be found here in OBJ, WRL and STL formats. If you don’t have access to a 3D printer or the time to create your own, you can also use the Rosetta comet viewer to play around with the comet.

If you’d like to learn more about Rosetta, ESA has made a nice little video that explains the whole concept like you’re five. Check it out below.