Carbon-containing “organics” are the basis of life on Earth and may give clues to chemical ingredients delivered to our planet early in its history.
The compounds were picked up by a German-built instrument designed to “sniff” the comet’s thin atmosphere.
Other analyses suggest the comet’s surface is largely water-ice covered with a thin dust layer.
Very very frozen ice, as hard as sandstone.
And landing where it did may have been useful after all.
After bouncing off the surface at least twice, Philae came to a stop in some sort of high-walled trap.
“The fact that we landed up against something may actually be in our favour. If we’d landed on the main surface, the dust layer may have been even thicker and it’s possible we might not have gone down [to the ice],” said Prof McCaughrean.
The drill apparently didn’t get a sample though, which is disappointing.
A key objective was to drill a sample of “soil” and analyse it in Cosac’s oven. But, disappointingly, the latest information suggest no soil was delivered to the instrument.
Prof McCaughrean explained: “We didn’t necessarily see many organics in the signal. That could be because we didn’t manage to pick up a sample. But what we know is that the drill went down to its full extent and came back up again.”
“But there’s no independent way to say: This is what the sample looks like before you put it in there.”
Pesky science, always refusing to give dogmatic answers.