Ancient ice under the crust of comet 67P is thinner than candyfloss.

A rendering of Philae landing on the comet. (ESA)

When the lander Philae entered comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko – also called Comet 67P – it bounced twice before its final rest. Now researchers have found the second bounce, exposing the odd ice on the comet ‘s back.

The lander Philae was transported to 67P on the Rosetta orbiter which began in 2004 and reached the comet in 2014. The harpoons designed to hold the Philae were not fired as they were lowered on the surface. The location of the first bounce and the last rest area of the lander were all fixed, but we did not know until now where the second bounce was.

“I agree that this was one of the most significant activities in the project as we were able to get science from three comet locations,” said Laurence O’Rourke, ESA Team member Rosetta. O’Rourke and his collaborators also found the second bounce spot by analyzing photographs captured by Rosetta before and after Philae.

They saw a reflective line over a few blocks in an region named O’Rourke’s “skull peak” thanks to its resemblance to a skull in some videos. “Ice-sliced chainsaw looks like that,” he says. Philae seems to have went up among the rocks, making four slashes revealing rudimentary ice underneath the surface dust layer of the comet.

The analysis of these gashes allowed scientists to estimate their weaker ice strength than candyfloss. The sea-shuffle on the beach is as delicate as the lighter snow following a snowstorm, “this 4.5 billion-year ice is just as delicate as the foam on the top of your cappuccino,” says O’Rourke.

He says he feels some of the comet’s ice is so weak that future landers will get to 67P and other such comets. It would also be important to remember that if a comet ever leads us, Earth will be secure. “You can’t simply hit it with an object and expect it to alter or disintegrate,” says O’Rourke. “Attaining a cloud is like that.”

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