Philae: Goodnight but Not Goodbye. Unlocking the Origins of Life: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Rosetta's Philae on the surface of 67P/C-G. Photo Courtesy of ESA (European Space Agency).

Rosetta’s Philae on the surface of 67P/C-G. Photo Courtesy of the European Space Agency.

On September 28th, 1969 a bright fireball exploded, shaking houses as it lit up the daytime sky outside of Murchison, Australia. Over the next forty-five years scientists have studied the Murchison Meteorite and found 14,000 compounds to include 92 different amino acids. Of the amino acids discovered, only 19 are found on earth. This rock, and evidence from other encounters with space objects, reveals that life-forming amino acids may have originated deep in space even before the formation of the sun.  In addition amino acids have been found on Saturn’s moon Titan, comets and newly forming stars (Large Molecule Heimat, Sagittarius B2).

Comets are of specific interest because they are the oldest objects in the Solar System, preserving four-billion-year-old organic molecules. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a short period comet (Jupiter Family) with an orbital period of 6.5 years. These objects are believed to originate from the Kuiper belt, a region of icy rocks just outside of Neptune’s orbit. A collision with another object can cause these rocks to fall into orbit around the sun.

Philae’s COSAC (Cometary Sampling and Composition) experiment was able to analyze samples taken from below the surface of the comet before the batteries died from lack of sunlight. ESA (European Space Agency) reported the lander bounced and is located under a cliff where it only receives 90 minutes of sunlight every 12 hours. When Philae receives enough sunlight it will again power up and send a signal to Rosetta. The last transmission was received on Friday, November 15th but ground control confirmed that COSAC sent back analytical data.

Striking images of Philae's harrowing journey to 67P/C-G. Courtesy of European Space Agency.

Striking images of Philae’s harrowing journey to 67P/C-G. Courtesy of European Space Agency.

Restek in Space:

Comet Impacts May Have Jump-Started Life on Earth

Amino Acid Detected in Space

New Organic Molecule in Space

Related articles:

Szopa, C., R. Sternberg, D. Coscia, H. Cottin, F. Raulin, F. Goesmann, H. Rosenbauer. Gas Chromatography for in situ analysis of a cometary nucleus: characterization of diphenyl / dimethylpolysiloxane stationary phases: J. Chrom. A. 1999. 863: 157-169


Leave a Reply

Restek Domestic Customer Service



Your Full Name

Your Email

Company Name


Spam Block (Please leave this blank)

all fields required

Thank you

Your message has been sent. We will be in touch shortly.

Message not sent

Sorry, your message could not be sent at this time. Please try again later, or contact Restek or your local Restek representative via phone.