Rosetta's Philae Lander Sends Back the First Picture of the Surface of a Comet

Thursday, 13 November 2014 - 10:41AM
NASA
Astronomy
Philae/Rosetta
Thursday, 13 November 2014 - 10:41AM
Rosetta's Philae Lander Sends Back the First Picture of the Surface of a Comet

Yesterday, Rosetta's Philae lander made history when it became the first spacecraft to touch down directly on a comet. There were some problems with the landing, so the craft may not be completely secured to the comet, but the mission appears to be intact, as Philae managed to send back the first picture detailing the surface of a comet.

 

Philae

[Credit: ESA]

 

The surface is shown to be cracked and bumpy, and the picture is taken from a certain angle that demonstrates the lander is not completely level. According to the European Space Agency, one of the harpoons that was intended to secure the lander to the comet failed to deploy, and now they're speculating that the lander might be wedged into a pit. This picture may very well be an image of the inside of that pit. But Philae is stable and still communicating with Earth, so it should be able to take all the necessary data during its two-and-a-half day mission before it runs out of battery.

 

Here is an image of the Philae's descent taken by Rosetta, in which the lander is a tiny speck approaching the comet:

 

 

ESA also shared this panoramic view of the comet:

 

 

You can also watch an animation of the Philae landing, made from images taken from the Rosetta spacecraft over the course of the descent:

 

Science
Space
NASA
Astronomy
Philae/Rosetta

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