The European Space Agency (ESA) has released photos of the Philae lander touching down on Comet 67P, a milestone that marks the first successful attempt of landing a robot on a comet.
On Friday, Nov. 14, ESA published images taken by Rosetta's NAVCAM as the orbiter tracked the intended landing spot of the comet lander.
The images, which were provided by the Flight Dynamics team, reveal what appears to be the shadow of dust that was kicked up when the washing-machine sized Philae first landed on the comet's surface then rebounded back into space after the pair of harpoons that was supposed to anchor it to the surface did not fire.
A more careful analysis by members of the European space agency's Flight Dynamics team and even by individuals monitoring the whereabouts of the robot has revealed that the NAVCAM images feature more than just trails of dust on the comet. The images show Philae itself right after it bounced like a ball when it hit the rugged surface of Comet 67P.
Gabriele Bellei, from the interplanetary division of Flight Dynamics, who painstakingly spent hours trying to find evidence of the historic landing on the NAVCAM images, first found the Philae in the images.
The images, which were immediately published online after the web team received them, also underwent close scrutiny by the ESA blog's readers. In a comment on the post featuring the images, John Broughton said that he had spotted the Philae on them. Other readers also pitched in on discussions on spotting the lander.
Just as speculated, the lander is indeed featured in the images. Philae can be seen as a bright dot and accompanied by a dark spot, which is its shadow produced as it rebounded upwards into space.
Mankind has made a rather bizarre history after the Philae Lander touched down on Comet 67P on Wednesday. Instead of settling after it touched down on the craggy surface of the comet, the robotic probe bounced twice before finally making it to its final landing spot.
The Philae Lander is now on a standby mode. The lander has shut down because it landed on a spot where it could not receive sufficient sunlight to recharge its batteries. Before running out of power and making the most of its 60-hour initial battery powered phase, the probe managed to send back scientific data from the surface of comet 67P.