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The calm after the storm

Phew… Philae, eh? What a few days! And here in the UK many of us relived the whole edge-of-the-seat drama all over again by watching a “Sky At Night” special all about the landing and the ROSETTA mission. It was a really good programme, focussing as much on the people involved in the mission, and what was at stake for them, as the science. Chris Lintott and Maggie did a great job communicating the tension, excitement and elation which drenched ESOC last Wednesday and in the days after. If you’re in the UK and missed it, you can catch up with it on the BBC iPlayer. If you’re living outside the UK, well, you’ll have to hope that you can catch it on one of your country’s TV channels (many show BBC programmes) or find some… other… computer trickery downloady way… to watch iPlayer. Not that I’m advocating you do that, of course…

Ahem.

Right. Where are we? Well, 5 days after the landing, there’s no word from Philae, but that’s not surprising. If it is recharging it will be a while, I think, before it’s able to phone home; so little sunlight reaches where Philae fell that it’s a longshot anyway. But we live in hope.

Meanwhile, no doubt there are photographic searches being made for Philae, by both the ROSETTA navcam and the OSIRIS camera. Obviously there’s more chance of OSIRIS finding it, but they could find a herd of mammoth on the comet’s surface and not bother to tell us, so we’ll see how that goes. OSIRIS certainly has the resolution to see Philae on the surface, as long as it didn’t bounce into a crevasse or a hole, so fingers crossed.

And, of course, now the Philae scientists will be getting stuck into analysing all their precious, hard-won data, and doing science with it. Good luck to all of them!

Now Philae has been dropped off, ROSETTA will get on with its main mission, which is monitoring the comet as it approaches, rounds and recedes from the Sun. So we can look forward – I hope – to more glorious navcam images, showing more and more activity.

Finally, as our memories of Philae’s epic landing fade, I’ve penned a tribute to the lander to celebrate and commemorate what happened. You can find it on my astropoetry blog, here…

Philae Dreams

It’s probably not what you’re expecting. Have a hankie ready…

More soon.

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One Response

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