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Last updated: June 20, 2015



Did Philae Fall Off of the Comet 67P Churyumov Gerasimenko?


Posted: 5 March 2015
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Churyumov Gerasimenko, comet 67P the duck shaped comet.
Comet 67/P Churyumov Gerasimenko from February 27th, 2015 by Rosetta's NavCam from a distance of 98.2 km from the center of the comet with 8.4m/pixel and measures 8.6 km across. Photo: ESA.

Update: June 20th, 2015: Philae makes radio contact. (Sp23)

Robot lander Philae became famous on November 12th,  2014 for landing on comet 67/P Churyumov Gerasimenko after being carried and released onto the comet by the Rosetta spacecraft. The mission was successful in the sense that Philae landed on the comet, after bouncing 4 times.  It was not very widely reported that when Philae bounced it spent over an hour in the "air", since the gravity on the comet is so minimal. Now Philae is missing, and news reports make it seem as though scientists believe Philae is still on the comet, possibly in shadow, with low solar power. However what if Philae is not on the comet? What if Philae fell off the comet 67P? Could Philae now be falling through outer space? This comet landing was a first in human history and could have gone more wrong than expected. Is that why the scientific teams collecting data on Rosetta have not been able to detect Philae for a few months now?

There are more than 1 type of scientist working on any mission. In the case of Rosetta, the navigation and the engine systems worked flawlessly, however the theory that comets are icy bodies that have comas or cometary tails consisting of water molecules that are melted surface ice which form as their parabolic orbit approaches the Sun, is what went wrong in designing the Philae lander. It turns out that the comet 67P is not as icy as expected by the traditional cometary theory.

Philae bounced on the comet's surface due to a lack of gravity.

Philae was equipped with instruments designed to stick into ice, such as ice screws, a harpoon and the mechanical hammer called the penetrator to take samples of the comet. Either these instruments were not used or did not work, except for the penetrator hammer which was unable to penetrate the comet.  It is possible that the force of those tools, had they been used, could have pushed Philae away from the comet.

When Rosetta got close enough to take good photos of comet 67P and see it’s rubber duck like shape, and dry, rocky terrain, Phile was already on its way to C-67/P, designed to land on an icy surface. Comets are very small compared to moons or planets so they cannot be seen clearly until the spacecraft probe arrives.

A group of physicists and other professional scientists known as The Thunderbolts Project have made several predictions based on their alternative cometary theory called the Electric Comet which is a subdivision of their total theory as to how the universe works called the Electric Universe Theory.

To most of the scientific community’s  surprise, C67P was not icy. Wallace Thornhill, an Australian physicist who is the most visible member of the Thunderbolts Project, called the comet’s surface a “desiccated, rocky terrain.” If the plumes of material spraying away from the comet are not melting surface ice, then what are they?

“It is not rising surface temperatures and evaporation of ices that provoke the dramatic discharging of comets, it is the charged particles erupting from the Sun to exchange charge with both the coma and the nucleus of the comet.”

- Wallace Thornhill, From "Episode 3 Symbols of an Alien Sky: The Electric Comet" by The Thunderbolts Project [2:03]

Copernicus was a Polish astronomer and canon for the Holy Roman empire who theorized that the Earth orbited the Sun and not vice versa. He realized his ideas were radical if not heretical so that he almost never published his work in his entire life. In the years just prior to his death, he was encouraged by a German professor of Mathematics named Rheticus, a Lutheran, who had connections to the printing press in Germany, and who urged Copernicus to publish his heliocentric theory that the Earth orbited the Sun and not vice versa.

Today, due to the Electric Universe Theory, cosmology is on the brink of a Copernican shift in thinking, like that which occurred after Copernicus' work "On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres" was published in 1543. This new shift in astronomy theory will probably gradually discard the icy theory of comets and replace it with the electric comet theory, a subdivision of the Electric Universe model.  Until the general public gains a more complete and higher level of understanding of electricity and magnetism, it is likely that the outdated icy comet model will still pass muster in university classrooms and in the mainstream media.

Comet 67P Churyumov Gerasimenko photography taken by Rosetta from 9.4 miles above the comet's surface.
A close up image taken by Rosetta on Valentines Day from 9.4 miles above the surface of the comet. Photo: ESA

Nonetheless, the calculations which delivered Philae to Comet 67P were perfect, but the theory of what to expect of the comet’s surface were flawed.  Still with great success they did drop a robot on a comet, even if that robot bounced into the sky for over an hour and a half because the gravitational field of the comet was so weak. Gravity, if any on the comet, appears to be weaker than Rosetta team scientists imagined it would be.

The comet 67P is reportedly 4.1 km long  (2.5 m). The driving distance between Honolulu and Haliewa on the island of Oahu is 48.6 km (30.2 mi).  Therefore the distance between the 2 cities is 11 times longer than the length of the comet making Comet 67P a very small island tumbling through space.

Diagram showing length and width and height of Comet 67P
Lengths shown in miles of the different parts of the rubber duck shaped comet 67P Churyumov Gerasimenko.

Comet 67P has a slow rotation of 12.4 hours. Earth is a million times bigger than the comet and makes 1 rotation in just 24 hours. Like the comet the Moon also has a slow rotation– 27.5 days. Yet comets cannot be compared to planets or moons as landing surfaces, they lack gravity which makes them possibly useless for human purposes.   

We know the Chinese Moon lander and rover which arrived in December 2014 have not bounced off of the Moon’s surface.  For future missions, scientists will probably plan on landing only on bigger celestial bodies like Moons or Planet-like-Moons, that have enough gravity to hold the Lander to the surface by the Landers own weight. 

by Andrea Boggs

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