Rosetta space probe spots Philae lander on comet

Comet 67P

November 2014 saw the Rosetta space probe orbiting a comet, dubbed Comet 67P Churmukov Gerasimenko, then dropping a tiny lander on it in a landmark moment.

The lander, dubbed Philae, endured a tough landing, bouncing several times before finally coming to rest on the celestial object.

Now, Rosetta has managed to snap another image of the comet and, if you look very closely in the shadow on the right-hand side, you’ll find the Philae lander resting on it.

philae snap edit

Still don’t see it? The European Space Agency (ESA) zoomed in on the snap…

Philae lander

“The images were taken on 2 September by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera as the orbiter came within 2.7 km of the surface and clearly show the main body of the lander, along with two of its three legs,” the ESA explained in a press statement.

The image also shows why communicating with the lander has proven to be so difficult, being situated right next to several boulders. The shady nature of the landing spot has also made it tough for Philae to keep itself charged via its solar panels.

Rosetta will ultimately suffer the same fate as Philae, as the host comet moves away from the Sun

The discovery comes just a month before the Rosetta probe’s mission is over. 30 September will see Rosetta being sent on a one-way trip to the comet, taking extremely high-resolution images and capturing a ton of data in the process.

The ESA said that Rosetta’s mission was coming to an end because of the “spacecraft’s ever-increasing distance” from the Sun and Earth, resulting in reduced solar power and bandwidth.

“We’re trying to squeeze as many observations in as possible before we run out of solar power,” the agency quoted Matt Taylor, Rosetta project scientist, as saying.

“30 September will mark the end of spacecraft operations, but the beginning of the phase where the full focus of the teams will be on science. That is what the Rosetta mission was launched for and we have years of work ahead of us, thoroughly analysing its data.”

Featured image: European Space Agency



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