ESA’s Philae lander finds organic molecules on Comet 67P

An analysis of data beamed home by the European Space Agency’s Philae lander revealed that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a porous celestial body with a fairly consistent interior.

Astronomers also came to know that Comet 67P has a notably diverse surface harboring a number of different carbon-containing organic molecules.

The comet’s surface at both the initial and final sites of touchdown, dubbed Agilkia and Abydos, are quite different. While Agilkia’s surface is soft, covered with a layer of granular material about 0.82 feet deep, Abydos is comparatively much harder.

Nicolas Altobelli, acting Rosetta project scientist, said that the implications of the measurements would help limit the configuration models of planetesimals in the solar nebula, by a superior understanding of the accretion processes.

Speaking on the topic, Altobelli added, “What really blows my mind is to have this combination of complementary results, allowing us at the same time to 'feel' the surface of the comet, very locally, as if we were there, while also getting the bigger picture through the sounding of the cometary interior structure.”

Philae lander detached from its mother ship Rosetta on November 12, 2014, and spiraled down toward the icy comet’s surface. But, the historic touchdown couldn’t go exactly as planned as its anchoring harpoons failed to fire, and the 220-pound lander bounced off the comet’s surface.

But, the lander shook off the shake-up and proceeded to collect data with its ten high-tech science instruments over the next couple of days, until its primary battery died and it slipped into hibernation.