After months of painting Comet 67P's barren surface with shades of gray, the Rosetta spacecraft has finally released its first colored image of the space rock, which shows valleys, cliffs, and craters as a dusty mix of red and brown.
The European space probe used its high-powered camera OSIRIS to create the stunning “true color” photo of the Manhattan-sized comet. But according to Science, Rosetta's researchers have had colored images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since early November. Some of the images were presented at a planetary science conference in Tucson, Arizona, but not released to the public.
So why has it taken so long for space enthusiasts to see these colored images?
One reason is because Rosetta researchers walk a tightrope between sharing their findings and images with the public, and withholding their hard-earned results until they can be published in a prestigious journal. Some instruments on the Rosetta mission have embargoes placed on their findings, which prevent their results from being publicized, sometimes for months. The positive side of the hold is that it gives scientists time to verify and reverify their findings. But it also keeps science fans temporarily in the dark.