Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ESA Rosetta Mission: Philae Landing on Comet 67/P 'all a blur'

The CIVA image from ESA Rosetta's Philae Lander is all blurred because the lander is bouncing away from the surface of the comet.

Credit: ESA

An image has been released that shows the hairy moment that the Philae comet lander bounced back into space.

The little robot touched down on 4km-wide 67P in November - but not before rebounding twice.

The new picture is a big blur, which is not surprising given that the lander was far from static.

It was acquired by Philae's CIVA camera system, which was primed to start shooting the moment the robot settled on to the surface.

Sharp images of the comet's terrain were eventually taken, but by then the robot had shot 1km across the surface and into a dark "ditch".

The shadowed hole limited the amount of sunlight reaching Philae's power generator, restricting its ability to charge its batteries.

The probe now lies dormant, waiting for better lighting conditions, which could arrive in the next few weeks as the comet moves into the inner-Solar System.

An update on the mission was given here at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Philae co-principal investigator Jean-Pierre Bibring also showed some reprocessed imagery taken by CIVA camera when Philae had finally come to a stop.

These pictures have been shown before, but the manipulation undertaken by scientists has revealed some new details.

In one, which Prof Bibring dubbed "Perihelion Cliff", it is possible to see glare marks. The Frenchman said these were reflections from the lander.

The glare is probably the reflection of the Philae lander itself.

Credit: ESA

Philae managed to despatch a good deal of science data from the surface before going into hibernation.

This information was successfully passed by the orbiting mothership, Rosetta, to Earth - and scientists continue to make their interpretations.

Meanwhile, the hunt goes on for Philae. Its precise location on the surface of 67P is unknown.

Rosetta took a series of pictures of the comet's surface on 12, 13 and 14 December. When these pictures are downlinked to Earth, researchers are hopeful they will find their lost probe.

Understanding precisely where Philae is on the comet will help engineers understand its predicament and the likely time of an awakening.

Part of this work is already under way using the limited number of pictures sent back from CIVA.

A preliminary model of the final landing location and its difficult terrain has been constructed.

Philae Lander's CIVA camera images have been used to construct a model of the final landing location.

Credit: ESA

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