Rosetta lander waits for more time in the sun

Surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta's navigation camera.

Philae, the lander released by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft on to the surface of a comet, is waiting for some sunlight to bring it back to life.

Rosetta scientists speaking at a recent American Geophysical Union meeting said they did not know exactly where Philae had landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after it was released. Philae bounced twice on the surface of the comet before settling in the shadow of a cliff. The lander is powered by solar panels and requires sunlight to function.

Rosetta is still circling the comet and has taken photographs of its surface, which the scientists hope will reveal Philae's precise location. The data must travel 483 million kilometres to Earth before being examined.

The lead lander scientist, Jean-Pierre Bibring, said he believed Philae would come out of its hibernation as the comet moves closer to the sun, possibly by February or March. But he cautioned success will depend on Philae's solar panels receiving sufficient light, and also on whether it is able to survive the cold conditions on the comet's surface.

Bibring also confirmed large organic molecules had been found on the comet, which scientists were still working on identifying.

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