Importantly, the objects were not seen in images taken two months prior. The ESA says that most of the spots are likely surface features of the comet, but one of them could very well be the lander.


“Although the pre- and post-landing images were taken at different spatial resolutions, local topographic details match well, except for one bright spot present on post-landing images, which we suggest is a good candidate for the lander,” noted OSIRIS team member Philippe Lamy, adding: “This bright spot is visible on two different images taken in December 2014, clearly indicating that it is a real feature on the surface of the comet, not a detector artefact or moving foreground dust speck.”


So is this the lander? The ESA says it’s still not entirely sure:

On one hand, analyses carried out at the Philae Science Operations and Navigation Center (SONC) at CNES suggest that this candidate satisfies a number of constraints regarding, for example, illumination and radio visibility in this region.

On the other, the candidate is located just outside the ellipse currently identified by CONSERT, although as mentioned earlier, improved shape models and continued CONSERT data analysis may alter its position.

Also, given the relatively long seven week interval between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images, it is possible that this object is due to a physical change at that location on the nucleus, perhaps as fresher material was newly exposed. The relative lack of significant illumination in this region at the time argues that such changes are unlikely, but they cannot be completely ruled out.


The ESA adds that the chances of finding the lander could be heightened if Philae collects enough solar energy to wake up and transmit a signal.

[ ESA ]