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The Philae lander is awake! And it’s sending us data straight from Comet 67P!

Submit your photos of Comet 67P!
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Philae is awake! And like space geeks around the world, we are so excited. After 7 months without hearing a peep, the lander finally got its batteries powered up and on Saturday it sent over 85 seconds worth of data, the space equivalent of saying "Good morning!"

Now you probably remember the excitement last year around Philae but if you don't, well where have you been? In September, ESA's Rosetta Orbiter reached comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and 2 months later, its lander, Philae, tried something that had never been done before - to touch down on the surface of a comet.

Unfortunately, the landing was too soft, the harpoons that were supposed to deploy and anchor it to the surface never fired. Because of 67P's low gravity, Philae bounced about a kilometer away and landed in the shade where it couldn't gather enough solar power to keep functioning for more than a few days. So we still got some data and pictures, but only what we could collect within those first 60 hours. There was so much more we'd hoped to learn from this comet and scientists weren't sure if the lander would wake up again. 

Now, it has. As comet 67P approaches the Sun, there's extra sunlight hitting the small exposed portion of Philae's solar panels, it's enough to get it back up and running again. When it first made contact on Saturday, the lander transmitted 300 data packets, not a lot of information but enough to tell that it had actually woken up at least once before, even though it hadn't been able to make contact.

Right now, Philae has 24 watts of power, about as much as like a super energy-efficient light bulb, and about 8,000 more packets stored in its memory so there's still a lot to learn about what the craft's been up to. Now after a full system's check, the focus is on getting Philae's communications fully back online, and its 10 science instruments started up so that we can finally gather the data we came for in the first place.

But the findings are going to be a lot different than what scientists said originally planned for the mission. For one thing, we still have to find Philae. We have no idea where exactly it landed after it bounced, and we've been looking for it ever since. Not having the location for the lander could jeopardize some of the research we were hoping to do. One of the mission objectives, for example, was to map the inside of the comet in an experiment known as CONSERT. But without knowing where the lander is, the map won't be as accurate.

Still, Philae's imperfect landing may have a big ole silver lining attached to it. If everything had gone according to plan and Philae had managed to grab hold at its landing site, it would have only worked until March when the ever increasing sunlight would've fried it. But now that it's in its hidey-hole, it's looking like the lander would actually survive the comet's closest approach to the Sun on August 13th, and be able to keep gathering data until it loses power again, probably some time in October. So this is an extra exciting time to be watching the comet.

As 67P approaches the Sun, it's becoming much more active with extra energy and solar wind knocking more ice and dust particles off the two-lobed rock. And if you happen to have access to a good telescope, the Rosetta team wants your help. The comet will be passing through the sky in the last week of July, but it's only expected to be about 11th magnitude. That's dim enough that you'll probably need at least a 350 millimeter telescope to find it and you'll definitely need a good sky-watching database to tell you where to look. But if you get a glimpse of it and you get some decent pictures, you can upload them to the NASA website, we've put a link into the description. Even if you don't spot the comet this time around, 67P is set for an encounter with Jupiter in 2026 that will adjust its orbit slightly, so when the comet passes by the Sun in 2028, it will actually be visible to the unaided eye.

Either way, it looks like we'll be hearing a lot more about comet 67P in the coming weeks and months so keep an eye out for more episodes of SciShow Space News. If you wanna help us keep making this show and making it available to everyone, you can go to and find out how you can help out, and don't forget to go to and subscribe.