After bouncing around Comet 67P late last week, the Philae lander eventually settled far from its intended site. Exactly where it's resting remains a mystery, but ESA mission controllers have narrowed it down to this tiny area.

ESA controllers have yet to make a visual identification of Philae. Rosetta is still scanning from above, so we may eventually catch a glimpse of the lander. Until then, the researchers are using a number of instruments, including CONSERT, the Comet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radio Transmission. This instrument transmits radio signals from the orbiter to the lander, and when the geometry is right, the signals pass through the nucleus of the comet, allowing its interior to be analysed.


To find Philae, ESA controllers are leveraging CONSERT's power to take measurements of the distance between Rosetta and Philae during the periods of direct visibility between orbiter and lander, as well as measurements made through the core. This has enabled the team to narrow down the search to the strip shown in the image above, a thin 1,148 feet (350 meters) by 98 feet (30 meters) strip of cometary land.

A second potential landing site is also shown, as the determination of the landing zone is dependent on the underlying comet shape models used.

[ ESA ]