Ever since its November 12, 2014 landing on the surface of comet Churyumov-Gerasmienko, the Philae lander has been elusive. It went silent just three days later and never returned any more science data, though it made brief contact with the orbiter last summer. Now, just a month until the planned end of the Rosetta mission, the orbiter has finally located the lander in a stunning high-resolution view of the surface. This OSIRIS Narrow-Angle Camera image was taken on September 2, 2016 from an altitude of only 2700 meters. See if you can spot the lander in it, but if you can't, don't worry, I'll show you below.
Here is an animated guide to locating the lander:
And here's an enlarged and rotated view of the lander, to compare to an artwork:
I'm especially tickled by the fact that there is a single bright pixel that clearly identifies the location of one of the CIVA cameras, the one that took the so-called "self-portraits" of Rosetta while Philae was still attached to the orbiter.
The image of Philae is all kinds of cool from a historical perspective -- documentation of one of our few extraterrestrial landing sites. But it's equally important for science. The small amount of science data that Philae took on the comet -- especially its CONSERT radio sounding data -- can now be placed in much more precise geographic context.
The amazing image was made possible by Rosetta's decreasing orbit altitude, a precursor to its eventual landing. Several of the recent OSIRIS Images of the Day have been taken from distances of less than 5 kilometers from the center of the comet, so from altitudes of less than 3 kilometers. I'm just fascinated by the small-scale surface processes on evidence here. The comet appears to be made of some kind of massive material, held together strongly enough to hold together, at least in places, despite pervasive fracturing; but the fracturing has taken its toll, creating angular boulders that litter the surface and which are themselves slowly breaking apart into finer and finer gravels. So cool.