After all the excitement of the dramatic bouncy landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the little Philae lander was able to take a quick look around its surroundings and even do some science before it shut down, running out of battery power.
But where did the lander end up? Philae’s final landing spot was far from ideal, having skipped across the dusty surface and settled next to a shady overhang. Without sunlight to recharge its batteries, the lander fell silent. There are still hopes, however, that Philae may reawaken as the comet’s orientation changes to allow more sunlight to fall on its solar array.
To make matters perplexing, Philae’s final resting place was not known and for months European Space Agency scientists have been studying high-resolution imagery of 67P’s terrain in the hope of picking out the tiny lander. Since December, the orbiter has not been able to make a close enough pass of the comet’s surface as cometary activity has been high — the jets of gas and dust have become a hazard for Rosetta’s navigation systems.
In a new analysis, however, mission scientists think they may have found Philae in the frigid terrain, a bright patch glinting in sunlight that is being described as “a good candidate for the lander.”