Philae lander sent in a surprise before going to sleep

mosaic image of Philae's landing

A camera aboard the Rosetta spacecraft, which is orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, snapped images of the lander Philae during its first touchdown on the dusty, icy world.


The Philae lander has given scientists a few hints about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko before going to sleep. Data from one of the lander’s instruments suggests that the comet has a hard icy layer sitting beneath 10 to 20 centimeters of dust. The find surprised scientists who were anticipating the instrument’s hammer would pound into a layer of material that was a bit softer. There are also reports that another of Philae’s instruments detected carbon-containing organic molecules.

Cameras aboard the Rosetta orbiter also spotted Philae as it drifted across the comet’s surface and captured glimpses of the lander and its shadow during the probe’s first touchdown.

Mission scientists continue to analyze the data that Philae collected in its brief 64 hours of activity on comet 67P.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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