Rosetta’s companion lander made the discovery after sampling and analyzing the comet’s atmosphere.
While Philae’s final touchdown on the comet’s surface was ultimately successful, its eventual position meant that its solar panels were not receiving enough light to keep it going and that within a few days it would need to go in to sleep mode to keep it alive until the sun was in a more favorable position.
To make the most out of the time available to them the mission team spent the better part of 60 hours conducting experiments and returning as much data as possible before the batteries died.
Among those results was the discovery of organic molecules in the atmosphere just above the comet’s surface. This find could indicate that the building blocks of life from which we are all based were originally brought to the Earth by comets much like this one.
“We have collected a great deal of valuable data, which could only have been acquired through direct contact with the comet,” said scientific director Ekkehard Kuhrt.
“Together with the measurements performed by the Rosetta orbiter, we are well on our way to achieving a greater understanding of comets.”
“Their surface properties appear to be quite different than was previously thought.”