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Space Science

Philae Lands Successfully On Comet 188

The European Space Agency has confirmed that the Philae probe has successfully landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and established contact with headquarters. The harpoons have deployed and reeled in the slack, and the landing gear has retracted. (Edit: They're now saying the harpoons didn't fire after all.) There are no photos from the surface yet, but the Rosetta probe snapped this picture of Philae after initial separation, and Philae took this picture of Rosetta. Emily Lakdawalla has a timeline of the operation (cached). She notes that there was a problem with the gas thruster mounted on top of the lander. The purpose of the thruster was to keep the lander on the comet after landing, since there was a very real possibility that it could bounce off. (The comet's local gravity is only about 10^-3 m/s^2.) The pins that were supposed to puncture the wax seal on the jet were unable to do so for reasons unknown. Still, the jet did not seem to be necessary. The official ESA Rosetta site will be continually updating as more data comes back.
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Philae Lands Successfully On Comet

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  • Can someone explain what I'm looking at in the second picture?

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Can someone explain what I'm looking at in the second picture?

      Nice bokeh.

    • Re:second picture (Score:5, Informative)

      by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @12:52PM (#48369621) Journal

      The second picture was taken from the probe itself after it detached. According to the ongoing conference, the picture was taken exactly (their words) 50 seconds after the probe was released.

      The Sun is the bright spot in lower middle. Rosetta itself is in the upper right. Because the probe was spinning when released, there is a slight blurring of the picture.

    • Re:second picture (Score:4, Informative)

      by Soulskill ( 1459 ) Works for Slashdot on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @12:52PM (#48369627)

      The blur in the center is a sunbeam -- ignore that. The boxy shape on the top right is the Rosetta probe itself. Extending to the left is Rosetta's solar panel. Here's an artist's conception of Rosetta [wikipedia.org] to give you a better idea of what you're seeing. The stuff around the bottom corners and very left side of the images are just reflections/lens artifacts.

    • second picture (Score:5, Informative)

      by j-b0y ( 449975 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @12:53PM (#48369641)

      Rosetta solar panels at the top of the image, with the main body of the probe top right. The sun was causing lots of straylight in the image and it was quite saturated, so they had to do some major fix-up work to get anything sensible, hence the wierdness that you see on the left hand side.

      • The main thing that puzzled me were what look like numbers along the body of the solar panels on Rosetta - are those computer artifacts too?

        • It looks like CCD artifacts to me (http://www.eso.org/~ohainaut/ccd/CCD_artifacts.html).
          It sometimes happen when movement or very bright light sources (e.g. the sun or metallic parts of solar panels) are involved.
          I still like my old Nikon D40 sensor thanks to its very fast flash-sync, but I get weird artifacts when shooting into the sun.

          PS: I just checked wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philae_%28spacecraft%29), and CCD sensors are used on Philae.

    • It's the Rosetta spacecraft as seen by the Philae moments after separation.

      • Whew! What a relief! I'm not a pilot, but that looks like a bad angle to be approaching a runway, especially at night.
    • It's a schoolbus crashing into an Aerobee.
    • List of images....

      http://www.reuters.com/article... [reuters.com]

      Hoping for some larger resolution of these. Fantastic the surface of a comet close up.

  • Congratulations! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @12:49PM (#48369577)
    Congratulations to the European Space Agency!

    .
    10 years and 317 million miles.

  • Hold on (Score:5, Informative)

    by zerosomething ( 1353609 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @12:51PM (#48369615) Homepage
    Harpoon did not fire. https://twitter.com/esaoperati... [twitter.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Excuse me for being a curmudgeon, but why the crap do they need half a dozen twitter accounts?
      There's @esa (ok, great, your organization has a twitter account), @esa_rosetta (oh... ok, a twitter account for each mission seems redundant, but...), @Philae2014 (now hang the fuck on, you gave the LANDER a twitter account?), @esascience (as opposed to what, the esa_cooking_show?) and @esaoperations (...what was wrong with the other four accounts?!)

      This is why I don't do "social media". The S/N ratio isn't just o

      • You think the signal to noise ratio would be improved by less granularity?

        • by tibit ( 1762298 )

          I do. The updates are so few that splitting them between the lander and the orbiter is nuts. Similarly, a split between @esa and @esascience is nuts as well.

      • Excuse me for being a curmudgeon, but why the crap do they need half a dozen twitter accounts? There's @esa (ok, great, your organization has a twitter account), @esa_rosetta (oh... ok, a twitter account for each mission seems redundant, but...), @Philae2014 (now hang the fuck on, you gave the LANDER a twitter account?), @esascience (as opposed to what, the esa_cooking_show?) and @esaoperations (...what was wrong with the other four accounts?!)

        This is why I don't do "social media". The S/N ratio isn't just out of whack, it's non-existent. Everything is just bloody noise.

        They probably thought they could get paid sponsorships from Red Bull, or whatever stupid shit is the motivator behind rampant eNarcissism these days.

      • Multiple accounts are useful, for example to bundle up news on certain topics only. It's no different from following only certain RSS feeds of a news site. It's good service and a way to filter the signal out of noise.

        • by tibit ( 1762298 )

          Except when different pieces of news from the same freakin' lander are reported on different Twitter handles. That's when multiple accounts are counterproductive. I think that ESA's approach to PR is a bit broken.

      • by qwak23 ( 1862090 )

        My cat just tweeted an angry reply to your post.

  • Not bad. . . (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @01:02PM (#48369793) Journal

    for a government run operation.

    Congrats to everyone at ESA, especially to all the people behind the scenes you never get to see but whose contribution to this project cannot be overstated.

    • by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @05:53PM (#48373177) Homepage
      Indeed, if they keep it up, they'll soon have caught up to the Walmart probe out in the Kuiper Belt, the Apple spacecraft out exploring the Oort cloud, and the Exxon-Mobil "lander" navigating the depths of the seas on Titan.

      You say "for a government run operation" as though those weren't the most impressive operations to date.
    • by Optali ( 809880 )

      Sorry mate, but last time I checked we didn't have an European Government.
      And ESA is a joint venture of a good bunch of private AND public companies.

  • No, the acceleration due to comet's gravity is a thousandth of a meter per second squared. The gravitational field itself is a vector quantity.

    • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

      It doesn't say "gravitational field". It says "[t]he comet's local gravity".

      I'll have you know that acceleration, like gravitational field, is also a vector quantity.

  • News coverage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by johnw ( 3725 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @01:22PM (#48370071)

    Having checked a number of on-line news sites, the best real-time coverage seems to be on XKCD

    • Having checked a number of on-line news sites, the best real-time coverage seems to be on XKCD

      yes, that's how I found out about it.

    • Re:News coverage (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2014 @01:54PM (#48370453) Homepage

      I loaded XKCD late in the game an thus missed some of his humorous updates regarding the landing. Luckily, XKCD1446.org [xkcd1446.org] has compiled all of them and you can flip through them from the first (blank) image to the most recent.

      • by flowerp ( 512865 )

        the site (I kid you not) is mained by MagicalTux (aka Mark Karpeles)

        • by flowerp ( 512865 )

          relevant reddit link
          http://www.reddit.com/r/xkcd/comments/2m1mvp/xkcd_1446/cm0765k?context=1

      • by Megane ( 129182 )

        XKCD1446.org

        Someone in another thread was complaining that there were four twitter accounts being used by ESA. But now someone has created an entire domain for a single XKCD comic? I mean, explainxkcd could have a better presentation for #1446 but there's no reason to create a whole new freaking domain for this.

    • Except for the fact that Randal wrote "U.S. Scientists: Proud" for a european achievement. (http://xkcd1446.org/img/r_16-25-00_MZ7aAUNWN5.png).
      I realize NASA worked on some parts for this project, but it still looks a bit like chauvinism.
      He then corrected it (http://xkcd1446.org/img/r_16-55-00_bD01qtUkFk.png).

  • Earth's gravity is roughly 10m/s^2, so the the comet's gravitational attraction is about ten thousand times weaker than ours. Disclaimer: I am not a physicist, and yes, I know "ten thousand times weaker" is crappy phrasing.
    • Disclaimer: I am not a physicist, and yes, I know "ten thousand times weaker" is crappy phrasing.

      So ... don't phrase it that way? What the hell is wrong with "one ten-thousandth as strong," anyway?

  • *Opens up the special bottle from 1980's*

    Finally a news summary story on /. that is, exactly what is is ;) (hats off to soulskill)

  • I think the ESA media relations is pretty bad. There is really no explanation of what is going on now...

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