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ESA’s Philae Comet Lander Continues to Skillfully Avoid Detection by Doing Absolutely Nothing

Like Philae, the rest of us would like to sleep until spring, please.


No matter what any agency-laden headlines might have you believe, ESA’s Philae isn’t hiding from us on purpose, and it will hopefully be able to tell us where it us relatively soon.

The lander unfortunately bounced into a shadowed area after bravely BASE jumping onto the surface of a comet. That left it without solar power, and following its drained battery and subsequent radio silence, its buddy Rosetta has been completely unable to find it.

They know where to look for it at the base of a rocky structure dubbed Perihelion Cliff, but visual observations from Rosetta haven’t turned up any positive identification of Philae’s position. Meanwhile, Rosetta has moved about 10 kilometers farther away from Comet 67P, and there are no plans to send it back in to look for its comet-bound friend.

But Philae won’t be able to hide out forever. The washing machine-sized lander is likely to reawaken in May or June of this year as the comet it’s hitching a ride on reaches its perihelion, which is the point in a comet’s orbit that brings it nearest to the sun.

That late spring timeframe is when scientists hope Philae’s solar panels will get enough sunlight to bring it back to life to continue sending data from the comet’s surface and help make further scientific discoveries. Unless, of course, it really is eluding us like a fugitive and has other plans now that we’ve given it control of an 11,000 mph comet celestial getaway car. Then who knows when we’ll ever hear from it again?

(via BBC, image via ESA)

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Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.