Science on the surface of a comet

Descending to a comet. Credit: European Space Agency

Descending to a comet. Credit: European Space Agency

From the Editors at

Complex molecules that could be key building blocks of life, the daily rise and fall of temperature, and an assessment of the surface properties and internal structure of the comet are just some of the highlights of the first scientific analysis of the data returned by Rosetta's lander Philae last November.

Early results from Philae's first suite of scientific observations of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko were published today in a special edition of the journal Science.

Data were obtained during the lander's seven-hour descent to its first touchdown at the Agilkia landing site, which then triggered the start of a sequence of predefined experiments. But shortly after touchdown, it became apparent that Philae had rebounded and so a number of measurements were carried out as the lander took flight for an additional two hours some 100 m above the comet, before finally landing at Abydos.

Some 80% of the first science sequence was completed in the 64 hours following separation before Philae fell into hibernation, with the unexpected bonus that data were ultimately collected at more than one location, allowing comparisons between the touchdown sites.

Read the full article here.