Aims. 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is the target comet of the ESA's Rosetta mission. After commissioning at the end of March 2014, the Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) onboard Rosetta, started imaging the comet and its dust environment to investigate how they change and evolve while approaching the Sun.
Methods. We focused our work on Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) orange images and Wide Angle Camera (WAC) red and visible-610 images acquired between 2014 March 23 and June 24 when the nucleus of 67P was unresolved and moving from approximately 4.3 AU to 3.8 AU inbound. During this period the 67P - Rosetta distance decreased from 5 million to 120 thousand km.
Results. Through aperture photometry, we investigated how the comet brightness varies with heliocentric distance. 67P was likely already weakly active at the end of March 2014, with excess flux above that expected for the nucleus. The comet's brightness was mostly constant during the three months of approach observations, apart from one outburst that occurred around April 30 and a second increase in flux after June 20. Coma was resolved in the profiles from mid-April. Analysis of the coma morphology suggests that most of the activity comes from a source towards the celestial north pole of the comet, but the outburst that occurred on April 30 released material in a different direction.