ESA’s Rosetta orbiter has spotted Philae hidden in a dark crack on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
On November 12, 2014, Philae accomplished its spectacular comet landing, despite a harpoon system that did not function after the ten-year journey through space.
The lander endured multiple ‘hops’ on the surface of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and arrived at a final location that nobody on the Rosetta mission team had foreseen.
After three days, Philae’s primary battery was exhausted and the lander went into hibernation, only to wake up again and communicate briefly with Rosetta in June and July 2015. However, until today, the precise location was not known.
New images taken on September 2 by Rosetta’s OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) narrow-angle camera clearly show the main body of Philae, along with two of its three legs.
The images also provide proof of Philae’s orientation, making it clear why establishing communications was so difficult following its landing.
“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,” said OSIRIS team member Dr. Cecilia Tubiana, of the Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research.
“After months of work, with the focus and the evidence pointing more and more to this lander candidate, I’m very excited and thrilled that we finally have this all-important picture of Philae sitting in Abydos,” added Dr. Laurence O’Rourke of ESA.
“This remarkable discovery comes at the end of a long, painstaking search,” said Dr. Patrick Martin, ESA’s Rosetta Mission Manager.
“We were beginning to think that Philae would remain lost forever. It is incredible we have captured this at the final hour.”
“This wonderful news means that we now have the missing ‘ground-truth’ information needed to put Philae’s three days of science into proper context, now that we know where that ground actually is,” said Rosetta project scientist Dr. Matt Taylor, also from ESA.
“Now that the lander search is finished we feel ready for Rosetta’s landing, and look forward to capturing even closer images of Rosetta’s touchdown site,” said OSIRIS Principal Investigator Dr. Holger Sierks, of the Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research.
The discovery comes less than a month before Rosetta descends to the comet’s surface.
On September 30, the orbiter will be sent on a final one-way mission to investigate the comet from close up, including the open pits in the Ma’at region, where it is hoped that critical observations will help to reveal secrets of the body’s interior structure.
from Department of Space Exploration