Philae May Wake Up By May, Say Scientists

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Scientists haven’t heard back from Philae since November as it remains in hibernation

The European Space Agency (ESA)’s probe Philae created history by making a soft landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014. Even after more than two months, scientists aren’t sure exactly where the comet lander ended up, but the ESA scientists are still searching. The ESA scientists said in a blog that the lost probe might get enough sunlight to wake up sometime in March. It is expected to establish contact with the control room on Earth by May.

Where is Philae?

After its historic landing, the 100-kg Philae has beamed back a lot of information about the comet before its batteries ran out. Philae couldn’t land on its intended site because its harpoons failed to fire. It grazed the edge of a crater and went into a tumbling spin before setting down in a shadowy region that has been named Abydos. But it had achieved all of its primary objectives.

Scientists have done their best to orient the probe toward the sun, but to no avail. Rosetta, the spacecraft that took Philae to the comet, has taken high-resolution images. Unfortunately, it couldn’t locate the washing machine size lander on the 4-km wide comet. Scientists haven’t heard from Philae since November as it remains in hibernation.

Philae needs at least 17 watts of power

Dr Holger Sierks of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research said that his team was looking for a set of three spots that correspond to Philae. Sierks is using the high-resolution OSIRIS camera to locate the lander. Long shadows cast by Comet 67P’s craggy surface have hindered researchers’ attempt to locate it. Philae is still in hibernation, which indicates that sunlight can’t reach it, at least for now.

The good thing is Comet 67P is moving closer to the sun. Scientists estimate that, by May, Philae’s probable landing site could receive direct sunlight. ESA experts say that it could get enough sunlight to wake up from hibernation by March. But it will not have enough energy to communicate with Rosetta until May. Philae needs at least 17 watts of power to talk to Rosetta.

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