Waiting For Philae

(…ideally, this will not be as futile as waiting for Godot.)

As we all know, in November the Philae lander failed to grapple and ended up in a deep shadow, with insufficient sunlight to charge its batteries. The lander has been asleep since then, but as 67P/CG swoops closer to the sun there is a lot more sunlight.

An example of the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera mosaics being used to search for Rosetta’s lander, Philae. The image is a slightly cropped 2 x 2 mosaic comprising images taken on 13 December 2014 from a distance of about 20 km to the centre of the comet. The lander, about 1 m across – the size of a household washing machine – would measure only about three pixels across in these images. The team are searching – by eye – for a set of three spots that correspond to the lander shape, but with the region strewn with boulders it is soon easy to identify multiple sets of three spots. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA From: http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2015/01/Lander_search_area

It is now possible that Philae could get enough sun to heat up and contact the Rosetta orbiter, and possibly even charge its batteries and collect more data. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile ESA has scrambled to get more imagery out to the public.   So, they have now released all the NAVCAM imagery, for anyone to use.

This is sensible, since the NAVCAM is pretty to look at, does not require complex analysis to interpret (it is basically human eye imagery), and isn’t critical to the proprietary science projects.

Unfortunately, the archive is also a “reality show”: many of the images have very little of interest to see, especially from far away. And many look almost the same. This, my friends, is what space travel is really like! Long, long stretches of really boring nothingness.

 

Space Saturday

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