Found: Philae lander finally spotted by Rosetta on comet 67P
Remember the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe from November 2014? It went to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and the Philae Lander touched down on the comet…and bounced, coming to rest in a shadow, preventing its batteries from charging. The lander did manage to operate for 3 days, sending back some pictures and other radar information. Unfortunately, the location of the lander had been undetermined until now. Images taken by the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft show Philae wedged against a dark cliff on the comet’s surface. This came just weeks before Rosetta is expected to make its own landing on the comet, ending the successful two-year mission.
The agency has known Philae’s rough location since June 2015, when unexpectedly, the lander woke up and briefly resumed radio contact. Since then, pinpointing its exact location has been the goal of the mission. Cecilia Tubiana said, “With only a month left of the Rosetta mission, we are so happy to have finally imaged Philae, and to see it in such amazing detail.”
Knowing the landing site will help mission scientists fully understand the data gathered by the probe. Now the data relayed back to Earth can be associated with a location.
But Rosetta doesn’t have long to celebrate this success. On September 30th, Rosetta will be commanded to land on 67P’s surface. It was never designed to do that. They’re planning to reduce landing speed to 1.2 mph. This will provide scientists a second chance to study a comet up close. Rosetta will end up in a slightly different part of the comet, where gas outbursts are erupting into space. Scientists hope to get information on the gas and dust being ejected from the comet.
Stay tuned for information as it becomes available.