This Flying Space Rock Is Way Bigger Than Los Angeles

The comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is really big. Earthlings should study it now—before something similar comes knocking at our atmosphere.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as pictured by Rosetta. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team)

The European Space Agency is taking some well deserved victory laps over the success of Rosetta, a spacecraft that's spent the last two weeks doing loop-de-loops around a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. For the next 16 months, Rosetta will give Earthlings a close-up of this celestial body, even dropping a robotic lander called the Philae on its surface in November. This is a coup for the European Space Agency—and really, for all humankind.

Comets have always seemed like a Euro thing: After all, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince is the best sketch anyone had of a comet, right up until now. NASA lands things on much larger stuff all the time, but at 2.2-by-2.5 miles in size, comet 67P/C-G seems just the right size for a little prince. Admirers have even given 67P/C-G an adorable diminutive: the Rubber Ducky Comet.

Twitter user @quark1972 provides some the scale to show just how cute—wait, make that huge—a chunk of space-rock we're talking about.

(quark1972/Twitter)

That's 67P/C-G Photoshop-looming over Los Angeles, as if to prove that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of on Sunset Boulevard.

Even if that scale is off somewhat—this rendering looks larger than 2.2-by-2.5-miles—it's close enough to show that it would be very, very bad if the planet were to be smacked by a fat comet.

Fortunately, this Slavic harbinger of doomsday doesn't intercept Earth's orbit. It comes close enough, though, that it only took 10 years and 4 billion circuitous miles for Rosetta to reach this Putinesque hammer. That's a good thing: Studying this comet is important, since we're going to need to a Michael Bay–esque solution if anything this large ever heads our way.

About the Author

  • Kriston Capps is a staff writer at CityLab. He was previously a senior editor at Architect magazine, and a contributing writer to Washington City Paper and The Washington Post.