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Rosetta postcard: Could you jump from these cliffs?

Postcard from a comet: Rosetta spots cliffs more than a half-mile high on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

While Philae rests quietly on the dark surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency's Rosetta orbiter is continuing to snap amazing images of the comet's nucleus and beam them back to Earth.

The picture above was taken Dec. 10 by Rosetta's NavCam when the orbiter was 12.5 miles away. The smaller lobe of the rubber-duck-shaped comet is on the right side of this picture, and the larger lobe is on the left. The smooth-looking slope with the boulders is the comet's skinny neck.

NASA's website featured a slightly altered image of the cliffs as its astronomy picture of the day Tuesday. NASA's version highlights the steepness of the jagged cliffs seen above. 

The authors of the NASA page write that the wall of the cliff rises about 1 kilometer (0.6 of a mile) high. That may sound treacherous, but because the comet's gravity is low -- Earth's gravity is several hundred thousand times stronger -- a person could probably jump off the edge and land without getting hurt.

Pretty cool!

Let's get back to that smattering of boulders in the comet's midsection. Although they look small in the picture, the biggest ones are actually about 65 feet across. 

Thanks to data collected by Rosetta, researchers have already determined what the comet might smell like (if you could smell in space) and concluded that Kuiper Belt comets did not bring water to Earth.

Rosetta will continue to escort the comet on its journey toward the sun for the next several months, so expect more amazing images -- and science results -- sometime soon!

Science rules! Follow me @DeborahNetburn and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.

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