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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Report from Darmstadt: Philae status and early Rosetta results from DPS

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

11-11-2014 3:04 CST

Topics: Rosetta and Philae, comets, mission status, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, explaining science

I arrived in Darmstadt, Germany yesterday and headed straight to the European Space Operations Centre, the base for ESA's spacecraft operations and my workplace for the next week. I'm here, of course, to cover the exciting Philae landing on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko; the seven-hour descent will take place during the day Wednesday here. There was a press briefing yesterday afternoon, but there is little news to report, which is the way it should be. Both spacecraft are ready. Philae is ready. The team is tired, but ready. Today, the team will begin working on shifts, 24 hours a day, until Philae's first science sequence is complete. There are currently no changes to the Philae timeline I posted last week. I'll do any updates and repost that article this evening, when the first significant event happens: the lander powers on at 18:05 UT. Less than 24 hours after that, if all goes well, Philae will be starting its surface science.

ESA Rosetta and Philae team at European Space Operations Centre, Nov. 10, 2014

Emily Lakdawalla

ESA Rosetta and Philae team at European Space Operations Centre, Nov. 10, 2014
From left to right: Matt Taylor, Rosetta project scientist; Stephan Ulamec, Philae project manager; and Andrea Accomazzo and Sylvain Lodiot, both Rosetta spacecraft operations managers

Mostly my visit to ESOC yesterday allowed me to greet old friends among both ESA staff and international space media. As the day wound down in Europe, the space media here in Darmstadt jealously watched the tweets coming in from a scientific session at the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Tucson, where the first results from Rosetta's work at comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko were being presented. We're not there and there is no webcast, so all we can do is be tantalized by the excited tweets coming from scientists at the meeting. I'd like it if there were at least a little bit of coverage of this at ESOC today, but I'm not too hopeful. So a distant second-best thing is to share some of these excited tweets with you, and provide context as needed. Here goes:

The first presentation was by Nicholas Thomas, on albedo and color variations on comet 67P as observed by OSIRIS. I've been dying to see more OSIRIS data -- only a handful of photos have been released, and none of them is in color. It's killing me that I didn't get to see the pictures that had a packed roomful of scientists repeatedly break into spontaneous applause today.

Dunes made from saltating grains? Mud volcanoes? What is this, Mars?

Anyway. The next talk was by Ceric Leyrat, also representing the OSIRIS team. His work was evidently based upon color maps of the nucleus, which I really, really wish I could have seen. They sound amazing.

Next up were a couple of presentations from the MIRO instrument, including ones by Mark Hofstadter and by Seungwon Lee, which focused on the comet's outgassing activity:

At some point someone asked the question that's been burning in all our minds:

In a more serious mode:

Next up came several presentations by Alan Stern, Lori Feaga, and Paul Feldman on surface and coma results from Rosetta's ultraviolet imager, ALICE -- which has a sister instrument on New Horizons, by the way.

Finally, two talks from the VIRTIS team about the nucleus of the comet in infrared wavelenghts, given by Fabrizio Capaccioni and Pierre Drossart:

All in all, it sounds like an amazing data set, and I'm looking forward to writing up the science when I get a chance to hear and see it first-hand. In the meantime, though, I've got a comet landing to watch. Stay tuned -- I'll have more to report later today!

See other posts from November 2014


Or read more blog entries about: Rosetta and Philae, comets, mission status, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, explaining science


CosmosQuest: 11/11/2014 08:48 CST

Thanks for the update on the Tuscon conference Emily. Hope you get a chance to see all those images soon that are being shown. I would very much like to see any of the evidence purporting ice on the surface as Jason Cooks tweet suggests of Leyrat's presentation at the conference: "Leyrat: bright neck is bluer and consistent with H2O ice. Emission near 770 nm near pits. Seeing ice patches on surface. #DPS14 9:53 AM - 10 Nov 2014" All the evidence to date was that there was no ice to be found...and several other tweeters said it was emphatically stated no ice yet what gives?

osha: 11/11/2014 10:56 CST

nice article.. i get alot of science here

jb.vincent: 11/12/2014 03:54 CST

Emily, thanks for your posts. I would like to correct one thing. You say: "...Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Tucson, where the first results from Rosetta's work at comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko were being presented..." This is not quite true, the first major scientific results were presented at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) in Portugal last september where a full day was dedicated to the Rosetta mission, with talks from all instruments presenting our major findings to the international community.

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