Thursday, November 13, 2014

Philae lander sends back first ever image from comet surface

Philae lander sends back first ever image from comet surface


The European Space Agency’s Philae lander has sent back the first ever image from the surface of a comet.

The picture shows the cracked, bumpy surface in monochrome, with one of Philae’s three legs in the bottom left of the frame. It is not yet clear whether the leg in the image is actually touching the surface. What is certain is that Philae is not level, and may be wedged into a pit.

“We’re either looking into a ditch or we are against a wall,” said ESA Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor.

Comets are often described as “dirty snowballs”, irregular blocks of ice covered with dust and rocks, but no human craft has ever reached the surface of one before.

Scientists re-established communications with Philae on Thursday after an anxious overnight wait while its mothership Rosetta, which relays the signals to Earth, dipped below the comet’s horizon.