15 November 2014

Sky & Telescope: “Philae Lands on Its Comet — Three Times!”

It’s been a historic day in planetary exploration. At 15:33 Universal Time, the European Space Agency’s Philae spacecraft reached the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. When radio confirmation reached Earth some 30 minutes later, cheers erupted around ESA’s control room in Darmstadt, Germany. (You can replay ESA’s landing webcast here.) Never before had a spacecraft landed on a comet.

No one realized it at the time, but data from the probe and particularly magnetic-field measurements from its ROMAP instrument later showed that Philae did indeed bounce after touchdown — not once but twice!

Kelly Beatty

Exciting times for space exploration! The saga is far from over, as the mission control are trying to figure out if they can rotate the lander in a better position to maximize its power supply.

I only wished human space travel would return to the spotlight; at this rate I fear I will not see a human being set foot on another Solar System body in my lifetime. Until then, we’re left to enjoy the stunning, crisp, black-and-white images sent back from the comet. You can’t get much better contrast than against the pure blackness of space!

Comet 67P on 24 September – NavCam by European Space Agency

And listen to its music:

Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium (RPC) has uncovered a mysterious ‘song’ that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is singing into space. The comet seems to be emitting a ‘song’ in the form of oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment. It is being sung at 40-50 millihertz, far below human hearing, which typically picks up sound between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. To make the music audible to the human ear, the frequencies have been increased in this recording.

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