The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Philae lander, which was deployed by Rosetta spacecraft on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November this year, has likely detected some traces of organic molecules on the celestial body.
Before shutting down on November 15 due to exhaustion of its batteries, the lander sent back some interesting images of the comet taken from its built-in CIVA camera system.
According to the scientists working on the mission, several images of the comet showed traces of organic molecules.
Speaking at the Fall Meeting of American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Philae’s co-principal investigator Jean-Pierre Bibring gave the mission update and released some reprocessed images of the comet sent by the lander.
One of the images, which Bibring terms as ‘Perihelion Cliff’, shows glare marks illustrating amount of reflections caused by the lander.
Researchers said that the organic molecules discovered in the images are no small potatoes either. According to Bibring, molecules with a total mass more than six times greater than methane have been discovered, suggesting the availability of the building blocks of life.
Scientists are hopeful that the lander will be able to recharge its batteries again as soon as comet 67P reaches at a closer distance to the Sun, most probably in February or March next year.
Even if the lander fail to eventually reawake, ESA’s Rosetta probe mission serves as a big accomplishment for the science community as it marks the first ever launch of rover on any comet.