Philae’s tumbles helped measure comet’s lack of magnetism
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right? So when life sends your comet lander bouncing and nearly careening off into space, use those changes in altitude and location to check for magnetism. Unplanned data doesn’t have to be bad data, right?
Big bounces couldn’t keep Philae down
While the Philae lander had a rough start on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P/C-G), the first 64 hours of operation yielded significant amounts of useful data before the lander shut down. Measuring the comet’s magnetic field (or, as it turns out, lack-thereof), was enhanced by the bounces and tumbles, especially after it was cross-referenced against data gathered by the orbiting Rosetta satellite. This data may now be used to help pin-point the location of Philae when it hopefully reboots later this year, but also helps us refine our understanding of the origins of celestial bodies in general.
Magnetism was possibly an influence when solid bodies like comets or planets are forming, helping to pull matter together. But Comet 67P/C-G’s lack of magnetism rules that out. At most, magnetism may influence very small particles, but not enough to consider it as a key factor in macro-models of planetary formation.
Source: Rosetta's comet has no magnetic field by Quirin Schiermeier, Nature