Leave a comment

The Philae lander just found organic matter on a comet

The Philae lander just found organic matter on a comet
Image courtesy of European Space Agency/ AP news

Remember when the world rejoiced as the little Philae lander made first contact with a comet in flight? Then we lost contact, but rejoiced again after it woke back up flying past the sun. Now we've interpreted the data and made a shocking discovery.

Organic molecules - the building blocks of life - exist on the comet's surface.

Before losing what brief communication the control team had with the Philae earlier this month, they were sent data from the lander about large grains of organic matter. These grains were found on the Comet 67P, they were over a millimeter wide and made of light-absorbing molecules.

These molecules are the very basic building blocks of life, which means that scientists now have a mission to explore the possibility of life on other planets (and comets) even more fervently. Although the cells found on Mars and now this comet are nowhere close to what life on Earth looks like, it still teaches us more about the universe than we ever imagined.

Before we can move onto that mission, though, we need to work on getting the oven-sized Philae back to a spot where it can transmit signals and send even more data to the control team here on Earth.

The lander is currently stuck on a shaded spot on the comet where it can't get sun rays to reach its solar panels. These solar panels power the Philae and allow it to communicate back and forth with the research team. Without sunlight, the lander is stuck on the dark side of the comet.

According to Kenneth Chang of the New York Times, "In two weeks, on Aug. 13, Comet 67P will make its closest approach to the sun, some 115 million miles away, halfway between the orbits of Earth and Mars."

This means August 13 will be the best chance to get the misguided lander back to where it should be and receive data from its interrupted transmissions.

We'll keep you updated as this intense educational adventure continues, so make sure you're staying tuned to what's Happening Now.

Next Story
View Comments ()
OnStar can be hacked to take over your car
Previous Happening Now

OnStar can be hacked to take over your car

3 major smart-home hubs are open to hackers
Next Happening Now

3 major smart-home hubs are open to hackers