Philae Wakes Up, Makes Contact!

Fantastic news! Philae’s alive and kicking. The lander “spoke” with its team on ground via Rosetta for 85 seconds — its first contact since going into hibernation in November.

Signals were received at ESA’s European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt at 4:28 p.m. EDT yesterday June 13. The lander sent more than 300 data packets reporting on its condition as well as information about the comet. 

“Philae is doing very well. It has an operating temperature of -35ºC (-31°F) and has 24 watts available,” said DLR Philae Project Manager Dr. Stephan Ulamec. “The lander is ready for operations.”

Philae spent two hours drifting above Comet 67P/C-G after its harpoons failed to anchor it to the surface. Credit: ESA

If coming out of hibernation isn’t surprising enough, it appears Philae has been awake for a while because it included historical data along with its current status in those packets. There are still more than 8000 data packets in Philae’s mass memory which will give the mission scientists information on what happened to the lander in the past few days on Comet 67P/C-G.

Philae went into hibernation on November 15, 2014 after running out of battery power. Credit: ESA

Philae shut down on November 15 after about 60 hours of operation on the comet after landing at the base of a steep cliff in a shaded area that prevented the solar panels from charging its batteries. Since March 12, the Rosetta lander has been “listening” for a signal from the lost lander.

First image taken by Philae after landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014 showing a steep cliff and one of the lander’s legs. Credit: ESA/ROSETTA/PHILAE/CIVA

Throughout, mission scientists remained hopeful that the comet’s changing orientation and increase in the intensity of sunlight as it approached perihelion would eventually power up the little lander. Incredible that it really happened.

Yesterday, we looked at the many attempts to find Philae. A day later it’s found us!

Both amateurs and professional astronomers across the world are in constant contact sharing observations of Comet 67P/C-G and news from the Rosetta mission. Klim Churyumov, co-discoverer of the comet, had this to say upon hearing the news of Philae’s awakening:

“Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Landing probe Philae awake! Everybody, please accept my sincere congratulations! It happened on 13 June 2015 in the day of birthday of my mother – Antonina Mikhailovna (108 years have passed since the day of her birth). And I’m starting from 13 November 2014 to this day, every morning pronounced a short prayer: “Lord, please wake Philae and support Rosetta”. God and the Professional Navigators woke Philae! It is fantastic! All the best! – Klim Churyumov.

How poignant Philae awoke on Klim’s mother’s birthday!

Padma Yanamandra-Fisher (left), Senior Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute, who runs the PACA site, and comet co-discoverer Klim Churyumov. Courtesy Padma Yanamandra-Fisher

Churyumov made his statement on the Pro-Am Collaborative Astronomy (PACA) site devoted to pro-amateur collaboration during comet observing campaigns. I encourage you to check out the group and participate by submitting your own observations of Comet 67P as it brightens this summer and early fall.

* UPDATE: In the coming days, the mission teams will reestablish contact with Philae and increase the amount of time it can “talk” with the lander. Once regular contact is established, science observations can begin again. Slowly. One instrument at a time.

The first instruments activated, those measuring temperature, magnetic fields and electrical conductivity on the comet, make small demands on Philae’s power. Slightly more power-hungry operations like picture taking and radio ranging will follow. Using the images and new data, scientists should be able to pinpoint the lander’s location.

After these steps, mission engineers will attempt to recharge the probe’s drained batteries to fire up its ovens (used to heat samples to determine their composition) and run the drill to collect fresh material.

Here’s a cool link to see LIVE telemetry from Philae.

Bob King

I'm a long-time amateur astronomer and member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). My observing passions include everything from auroras to Z Cam stars. I also write a daily astronomy blog called Astro Bob. My new book, "Wonders of the Night Sky You Must See Before You Die", a bucket list of essential sky sights, will publish in April. It's currently available for pre-order at Amazon and BN.

Recent Posts

Perseverance Found Some Strange Rocks. What Will They Tell Us?

NASA's Perseverance Rover has left Mount Washburn behind and arrived at its next destination, Bright…

17 hours ago

Marsquakes Can Help Us Find Water on the Red Planet

Earth is a seismically active planet, and scientists have figured out how to use seismic…

20 hours ago

If We Want To Find Life-Supporting Worlds, We Should Focus on Small Planets With Large Moons

There's no perfect way of doing anything, including searching for exoplanets. Every planet-hunting method has…

23 hours ago

The Earliest Merging Quasars Ever Seen

Studying the history of science shows how often serendipity plays a role in some of…

1 day ago

Hubble's Back, but Only Using One Gyro

The Hubble Space Telescope has experienced ongoing problems with one of its three remaining gyroscopes,…

2 days ago

Earth’s Atmosphere is Our Best Defence Against Nearby Supernovae

Earth's protective atmosphere has sheltered life for billions of years, creating a haven where evolution…

2 days ago