Philae comet lander eludes discovery

Philae comet lander eludes discovery

Efforts to find Europe’s lost comet lander, Philae, have come up blank.

The most recent imaging search by the overflying Rosetta “mothership” can find no trace of the probe.

Philae touched down on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 12 November, returning a swathe of data before going silent when its battery ran flat.

European Space Agency scientists say they are now waiting on Philae itself to reveal its position when it garners enough power to call home.

Researchers have a pretty good idea of where the robot should be, but pinpointing its exact location is tricky.

On touchdown, Philae bounced twice before coming to rest in a dark ditch.

This much is clear from the pictures it took of its surroundings. And this location, the mission team believes, is just off the top of the “head” of the duck-shaped comet.

The orbiting Rosetta satellite photographed this general location on 12, 13 and 14 December, with each image then scanned by eye for any bright pixels that might be Philae. But no positive detection was made.

Rosetta has now moved further from 67P, raising its altitude from 20km to 30km, and there is no immediate plan to go back down.

Even if they cannot locate it, scientists are confident the little probe will eventually make its whereabouts known.

As 67P moves closer to the Sun, lighting conditions for the robot should improve, allowing its solar cells to recharge the battery system.




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