New images show Philae’s journey

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Published: Monday 17th November 2014 by The News Editor

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New images have been released showing the journey taken by the space probe Philae after it was dropped from its satellite and the moments after it first landed on Comet 67P.

The series of photos, captured by the Rosetta satellite’s narrow-angle camera, cover the 30 minutes that span the first time Philae touched down on the comet’s surface last Wednesday.

The dishwasher-sized craft bounced twice before coming to rest more than half a mile from its original landing site.

It ran out of power on Friday as it lay in the shadow of a crater wall and contact was lost in the early hours of Saturday. Scientists still do not know its exact resting spot.

Philae, the first spacecraft to land on a comet and study it, is now in “standby” mode while scientists here on Earth wait in hope that light from the Sun might fall on solar panels and effectively “wake it up”.

The new images could help locate the probe because they show which way it was moving when it landed and the direction it took after it bounced away.

Images released over the weekend by the European Space Agency (ESA) also show what appeared to be a shadow of dust cloud that was kicked up when Philae first touched down on the surface of the comet.

They also showed Philae itself, along with its own shadow, just after it bounced.

These were taken by Rosetta’s navigation cameras, but the new images, taken from the satellite’s Osiris narrow-angle camera around 15.5km from the comet’s surface, are in much greater resolution.

They confirm Philae was moving east at a speed of around 0.5m/s and show its descent and journey across the comet before it landed on the surface at 3.43pm on November 12.

It rebounded and was above the comet for almost two hours before touching down again at 5.25pm and reaching its final resting place at 5.32pm after another small bounce.

Now that Philae is in an “idle mode” with all its instruments and most systems having shut down, the ESA fears there could possibly be a long silence ahead.

Philae managed to return all of its housekeeping and science data, meaning that measurements planned for the final block of experiments on the surface were completed, the ESA said.

From now on, no contact will be possible unless enough sunlight falls on the solar panels to generate enough power to wake it up.

Published: Monday 17th November 2014 by The News Editor

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