The search is over. The European Space Agency’s ill-fated comet lander Philae has finally been spotted on the surface of Comet 67P by its counterpart spacecraft Rosetta.
Its discovery comes just weeks before the ESA announced that it would be ceasing all communications between Rosetta and Philae as the mission was nearing a close.
“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,” says Cecilia Tubiana of the OSIRIS camera team, the first person to see the images when they were downlinked from Rosetta yesterday.
Philae was last spotted at the beginning of its mission when it tried to land, failed to gain a hold on the comet’s surfaced and then flew for a further two hours before finally resting in the shadows.
Sadly Philae’s final resting place meant that the tiny craft’s solar cells were unable to get the life-giving energy the spacecraft needed to stay warm.
As such it went into a ‘hibernation’ mode and was only able to then regain contact with Rosetta and the ESA in the Summer of last year.
For many in the Rosetta mission this will be a highly emotive moment to finally see the spacecraft that spent 10-years travelling to Comet 67P.
The ceasing of all communications with Philae marks the first stage in what will be a month-long final goodbye for the mission at the end of which Rosetta will be flown down onto the surface of 67P alongside Philae.
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016:
- 14Stephen Voss
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- 10Nicholas Roemmelt
- 9Philippe Jacquot
- 8Ivan Eder
- 7Giles Rocholl
- 6Sean Goebel
- 5Lee Cook
- 4Katherine Young
- 3Rune EngebÃ¸
- 2Melanie Thorne
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