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  Scientists hope comet lander close to wakingMar 13, 2015 4:28 AM PDT | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:When the ESA's Philae probe landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, it kicked up a cloud of dust from the comet's surface, and, even though it landed in a deep shadow where it quickly lost power since its solar cells could collect no sunlight, it managed to fire up its oven, heat the debris it had collected, and analyze the gasses given off (BBC). At the end of November, "the team leader, Prof Ian Wright, told BBC News: 'We can say with absolute certainty that we saw a very large signal of what are basically organic (carbon) compounds. There is a rich signal there. It is not simple. It is not like there are two compounds; there are clearly a lot of things there - a lot of peaks. Sometimes a complicated compound can give a lot of peaks.'" The potential find of complex organic compounds is in line with the theory that it was comets that brought the building blocks of life to Earth.
 
After that tantalizing preliminary analysis, Philae ran out of power and went to sleep. Now, with the comet gradually approaching the Sun, Philae is receiving twice as much solar power as it was when it landed, and it might have enough power to wake up (Wired); mission controllers have managed to get its mother ship, Rosetta, aligned over the lander in its orbit of the comet, so they can communicate—if Philae has enough power. "Today, for the first time since it started napping, mission engineers have begun trying to communicate with Philae." The lander "is only getting 1.3 hours of sunlight for each 12.4-hour day on the comet. For the lander to wake up, its solar panels have to be turning those meager hours of sunlight into 5.5 watts of power. And to send and receive signals from Rosetta, it needs 19 watts. Philae also has to be warmer than -49˚F to work." The lander's science team doesn't think it's getting that—yet (it might even be as cold as -150˚F, in shadow). They'll be sending it signals, though, in the hopes that it may get enough light to at least do a little work in its daylight hours, even if its battery is still too cold to start charging. As Rosetta's orbit changes, windows of opportunity for this communication with the lander—whose exact position on the comet is still unknown—will come and go a handful of times between now and August 13th, when the comet hits its closest approach to the Sun; if they haven't heard from it by then, it's probably the end.
 
 
 
 
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