Chill, Philae: Shadow may protect comet lander from Sun roasting

But because it bounced and tumbled to a halt on a shadier stretch of the alien surface, it might be able to witness the dramatic show on the comet as it warms.


As its lopsided orbit brings it closer to the sun, the comet’s ice is rapidly boiling off into gas.

German Aerospace Centre (DLR) spokeswoman Manuela Braun said while the project experienced disadvantages, there were unexpected advantages.

The lander can stand temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius, while temperatures on Comet 67P would have hit roughly 80 degrees Celsius when it passed the Sun about midday (AEST).

Rosetta scientists report on the mission website that this a landmark moment because the intensity of sunlight increases and parts of the comet that may have been in darkness for years are exposed to the sunlight. It’s spewing lots of of kilos of fuel and a tonne of mud per second.

The European Space Agency this week reported that one of the comet’s outbursts was so dramatic that it pushed away the incoming power of the Sunday. The jet, the brightest seen to date, was first recorded in an image taken at 6:24 a.m. PDT (9:24 a.m. EDT, 13:24 GMT) on July 29, but not in an image taken 18 minutes earlier.

In that case, it might disgorge pristine particles left from the photo voltaic system’s start four.

On Thursday, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko makes its closest approach to the sun, or its perihelion, whips around it, and soars back out into the cold.

However, it is uncertain if Philae will transmit any more information from its perch on the comet.

If the boffins are really lucky, the 500 metre crack in the comet’s duck-like neck could split completely and expose the interior, which the ESA’s Mark McCaughrean described as “the Holy Grail”.

The close approach may also leave the lander and its satellite unharmed, as Comet 67P is expected to survive perihelion.

Additional complicating communication is the truth that Rosetta has needed to transfer farther away to keep away from the confounding results of the mud storm on its star-tracking navigation system.


After it reaches its closest point to the sun, around 115 million miles, it will begin its return trip outward to beyond the orbit of Jupiter. The European Space Agency’s spacecraft Rosetta remains in orbit around it. Observations are helping scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in seeding Earth with water, and perhaps even life.