New chemical elements in periodic table

This 2013 music video is called The NEW Periodic Table Song Lyrics (In Order).

From Discover magazine:

It’s Time to Update the Periodic Table, Again

By Nathaniel Scharping | January 4, 2016 3:30 pm

The periodic table just got a little bigger.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has officially confirmed the existence of four new elements with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118, completing the seventh row, or period, of the periodic table.

Filling Up the Periodic Table

The elements’ existence has been documented by researchers from Russia and the United States, as well as a separate team from Japan, for several years, but they awaited official review by the IUPAC to be formally accepted. Now that the confirmation process is complete, the researchers will submit permanent names for their elements. The IUPAC states that elements can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist. The elements are currently known by placeholder names, such as the ever catchy ununseptium for element 117.

The four newest discoveries will join other “superheavy” elements in the seventh period of the periodic table, including flerovium and livermorium, which were added in 2011.

A team of researchers from Japan’s Riken Institute led by Kosuke Morita first discovered evidence of element 113, or ununtrium, back in 2004 when they shot a beam of zinc ions at a thin layer of bismuth, and confirmed their finding in 2012. Moving at 10 percent the speed of light, the nuclei of both atoms occasionally fused together, creating an element with 113 protons.

Gone in the Blink of an Eye

Don’t go looking for these new additions to the periodic table, however. Due to their volatile nature, all of the newfound elements exist only in the lab, and disappear soon after they form. As with all elements beyond uranium, these new elements are radioactive, meaning they decay into other elements over time by releasing pairs of protons and neutrons called alpha particles.

Superheavy elements have particularly brief lifespans, often disappearing a fraction of a second after they are created. Newly minted 113, for example, exists for less than a thousandth of a second before it decays into roentgenium.

Proof Difficult to Obtain

The brief existence of superheavy elements makes it hard to prove they are real. It took Morita’s team almost a decade to definitively show their element existed after they initially discovered it. They accomplished this by looking at the chain of decay the element goes through on its way to becoming stable. Most radioactive elements don’t transition directly to stable atoms, but instead go through a cascading series of unstable ones, jettisoning protons and neutrons bit by bit as they become more stable. With time and luck, the researchers observed their element at every stage of its decay into known elements, beginning with roentgenium and ending with mendelevium.

Extremely short lifespans make these new elements effectively useless for practical applications. However, these new discoveries take researchers one step closer to the so-called “Island of Stability,” a region of the periodic table where elements that are both superheavy and stable are thought to exist, and which is believed to begin around atomic number 120. While none of these atoms have been discovered yet, their existence is predicted by the “magic number” theory. The theory says that certain numbers of protons and neutrons are more stable than others, as they create completely filled energy shells within the nucleus.

While creating these mythical elements is exciting, the biggest priority at the moment is finding a name for the newest additions to the periodic table. Any suggestions?

Surprising oxygen discovery on comet 67P

This video says about itself:

Rosetta orbiter: ‘Surprise’ oxygen discovery

28 October 2015

Scientists have learned that the air surrounding Comet 67P where the European Space Agency’s probe landed is rich with oxygen. Report by Jessica Wakefield.

From Astronomy Now:

Surprising discovery of molecular oxygen on comet 67P

University of Bern Press Release

29 October 2015

The biggest surprise so far in the chemical analysis of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s atmosphere is the high proportion of oxygen molecules. While such molecules are common in the Earth’s atmosphere, their presence on comets had originally been ruled out.

Early on in the mission of the ROSINA mass spectrometer, in September of last year, researchers from the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern made an unexpected discovery when analysing the comet’s gases: Between the expected peak values of sulfur and methanol, clear traces of oxygen (O2) molecules were detected. It turned out that O2 is in fact the fourth most common gas in the comet’s atmosphere, after water (H2O), carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). As oxygen is highly reactive chemically, it was previously thought that in the early solar system it must have combined with the abundant hydrogen then present to form water. Nevertheless, oxygen molecules were present on the comet. “We had never thought that oxygen could ‘survive’ for billions of years without combining with other substances,” says Prof. Kathrin Altwegg, project leader of the ROSINA mass spectrometer and co-author of the study. The findings are published today in the scientific journal Nature.

Invisible from Earth

Molecular oxygen is very difficult to detect with spectroscopic measurements from telescopes, which explains why this molecule had not already been observed on other comets. An in situ measurement by the ROSINA mass spectrometer was needed to make this discovery. “It was also astonishing that the ratio of water to oxygen didn’t change in different locations on the comet or over time — so there is a stable correlation between water and oxygen,” says co-author Altwegg.

Ancient Substance

In contrast to comets, it is known that oxygen molecules occur on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. That is explained by their being struck by high-energy particles from their respective mother planets, which do not exist in the case of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet has been bombarded for 4.6 billion years, though, by high-energy cosmic radiation particles. These particles can split water, resulting in the formation of oxygen, hydrogen and ozone, among other substances. These particles only penetrate a few metres into the surface, however. In each of its revolutions around the Sun, though, the comet loses between one and ten metres from its circumference. Since its last meeting with Jupiter in 1959, which set the comet on its current orbit, it has consequently lost more than 100 metres of its material.

The most likely explanation, according to the researchers, is that the oxygen originated very early, before the formation of the solar system. Specifically, high-energy particles struck grains of ice in the cold and dense birthplaces of stars, the so-called dark nebulae, and split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen was then not further “processed” in the early solar system. The oxygen measurements show that at least a significant part of the comet’s material is older than our solar system and has a composition typical of dark nebulae, from which solar nebulae and later planetary systems originate. “This evidence of oxygen as an ancient substance will likely discredit some theoretical models of the formation of the solar system,” says Altwegg.

German professor praises drones, poison gas

This 1 April 2015 video from the USA is called Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars • FULL DOCUMENTARY FILM • BRAVE NEW FILMS.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

German professor Herfried Münkler: Combat drones and poison gas are “humane” weapons

16 April 2015

About two weeks after the German and French governments decided at a joint cabinet meeting to manufacture combat drones in Europe, Humboldt University Professor Herfried Münkler praised such drones as “humane” weapons in a long interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung (FAZ). He drew a historical parallel to poison gas, which was used for the first time in the First World War, describing it also as “humane.”

When the FAZ noted that poison gas is perceived “as especially terrible,” Münkler replied, “There is this striking paradox. Between three or four percent die in poison gas attacks, while the death toll from artillery wounds is around fifty percent, and the rate of mortality from rifle or machine gun fire thirty percent. That means that you could actually say that gas is a rather ‘humane’ weapon, because it has a relatively low death toll.”

Münkler added that in drone attacks the operators “have much more time for observation than the pilot of a fighter bomber,” and “the collateral damage of drone attacks” is “clearly lower than that from fighter bombers.”

It is difficult to say which is more repulsive: Münkler’s trivialization of poison gas attacks in the First World War, or his plea for combat drones today.

This video says about itself:

Deadly Battles of World War I – Ypres the Gas Inferno

7 November 2014

Poison gas killed 80,000 soldiers in World War I. Nearly a million more were victims who suffered its lingering effects. Initially the wind distributed chlorine gas across the battlefields of the western front but an arms race quickly developed until one in three shells contained some form of toxic gas.

It’s not the statistics, however, that make this a successful documentary. A surprising amount of black-and-white footage and interviews with survivors and relatives of key players tell a compelling tale of motivations and consequences. For those who adhere to the maxim that history repeats itself, it’s worth noting that despite an international convention banning chemical weapons, both sides of the Great War deployed poison gases with few reservations. As one interviewee puts it, patriotism defeated morality.

The Johannes Stern article continues:

The hundredth anniversary of the first use of poison gas as a weapon of mass extermination is just under a week away. On April 22, 1915, German troops used chlorine gas in the battle at Ypres.

The Deutsche Welle published an article a year ago that described how a yellowish cloud of 180 tons of chlorine gas wafted out of the German trenches to the enemy lines: “There began the horror. The enveloped soldiers stumbled around, turning red, blind and coughing. Three thousand of them suffocated and an additional seven thousand soldiers, who were badly burned, survived.”

In an escalating gas war, in which more and more effective chemical weapons were put into use, “about 120 thousand tons of 38 types of warfare agents were deployed, about 100 thousand soldiers [died] and 1.2 million men were wounded,” according to a paper published by the Federal Agency of Civic Education.

Science historian Ernst Peter Fischer commented on the first poison gas attack in Ypres in the Deutsche Welle account. “At that moment, science lost its innocence,” he said. Until then, the goal of science consisted of easing the conditions of life of human beings. “Now science provided the conditions for killing human life,” Fischer said.

Fischer cited the example of the Berlin chemist Fritz Haber, who founded and headed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electro-chemistry. Haber placed his entire scientific ability in the service of mass extermination. This proved no hindrance to his career. After the end of the war, the “father of gas warfare” won the Nobel Prize for chemistry and sat on the supervisory board of the chemistry giant I.G. Farben, which later produced the poison gas Zyklon B for the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Haber, who was himself Jewish, emigrated in 1933 and died shortly thereafter.

The use of poison gas, which Münkler praises as a “humane weapon,” was not just a new method for slaughtering millions of soldiers. Its use was then and remains today a war crime. It contravenes the Hague Convention of 1907 and was once again explicitly forbidden in the Geneva Protocol of 1925. In the war in Iraq and as part of the war threats against Syria, imperialist propaganda used the actual or alleged use of poison gas in these countries as sufficient grounds for war.

For this reason, Münkler’s parallel between poison gas and drone warfare is particularly significant. The comparison is apt, not because they are both “humane” methods of war, but because both exemplify the development of new stages in imperialist brutality.

The US-led drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen not only violate international law, but have taken the lives of thousands of innocent victims (Münkle’s “collateral damage”) in recent years. According to research carried out by the London based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US military has wiped out between 2.4 and 3.9 thousand people in “targeted killings” in Pakistan alone. These victims of combat drones are not infrequently women, children or innocent participants at birthday parties, weddings or funerals.

Münkler’s justification for warfare with poison gas and combat drones is utterly cynical. He accuses the opponents of gas and drone warfare of clinging to the ideal of a long bygone “heroic” age.

“The criticism of gas warfare and the criticism of drone warfare are connected in that they both have to do with the ethos of the fighter. The astounding thing is that drones are criticized in a post-heroic society, but with the arguments of the heroic society, which demands the struggle of man against man,” explained the professor.

By “post-heroic,” Münkler means that war is no longer fought man to man, but rather that soldiers and civilians of less developed states are slaughtered in cold blood by their adversaries—at the mercy of remote-controlled drones or poison gas, which soldiers cannot defend themselves against.

“We are observing the transformation of war into policing,” he said in the FAZ. “Goals are being pursued in a way that can be understood as making investments in the future of the area of intervention by minimizing losses. Hegel called the weapon ‘the essence of the fighter’—drones are the typical weapon of post-heroic society. There is no ethos or aesthetic of war. There is only effectiveness of battlefield management.”

It requires the intellectual degradation of a German professor to try to use Hegel for the purpose of celebrating combat drones as an “effective” category of weapon above any ethical or moral criticism.

Münkler’s argument is an insult to the intelligence of the vast majority of the population which opposes combat drones, but not because of any longing for a “heroic” age or a preference for fighting wars with the sword “man against man.” Rather, drones are hated because no other weapon is more closely associated with imperialist aggression, war crimes and the suffering of civilian populations.

Münkler also introduces social Darwinist arguments to justify drone warfare. The “post-heroic society” is characterized “by two elements,” he said in the FAZ interview: “A low rate of reproduction in the population. There is no longer a surplus of young men for the battlefield. And the idea of self sacrifice at the ‘altar of the fatherland’ is completely foreign to us.”

Two years ago Münkler had already presented an argument against ethical and moral objections to modern weapons of destruction. At the fourteenth annual foreign policy conference of the Green Party affiliated Heinrich Böll Stiftung, he gave a lecture titled: “New fighting systems and the ethics of war.”

At that time Münkler warned: “Post-heroic societies such as ours should be very careful when they talk about the ethics of war. They are playing with fire, especially when they use ethics to demand more from soldiers than they would demand of themselves.”

He then told the politicians and foreign policy experts in attendance: “The ‘citizen in uniform’ is much closer to war drones than the soldier of a classical army, and he prefers their use to the deployment of light infantry in hostile terrain, with the goal of eliminating an actual or supposed threat in direct contact with the enemy. To express it pointedly: in the criticism of drones, the ethics of a pre-bourgeois society is giving voice to heroic ideas in a nostalgic form. This is a critique that has not been thought out to the end.”

Irrespective of how “thought out to the end” is his own overblown pontification, the stance of the professor is very clear—his standpoint is highly militaristic. In a situation in which neither the population nor the majority of soldiers favors being slaughtered in open warfare on the battlefield, he recommends drones to the ruling elite as a suitable means of achieving the ends of German imperialism through military means.

The fact that Münkler now places poison gas in the same category as drones shows that inhumane and militaristic attitudes are once again running rampant in ruling circles in Berlin 70 years after the end of the Second World War. The report of the Böll Stiftung on the conference two years ago concluded that Münkler’s presentation of “controversial combat drones as a positive new stage in weapons technology from an ethical point of view” was seen as a “minor provocation.”

Since then, Münkler’s “minor provocation” has become a dangerous reality. The Böll Stiftung campaigns for a confrontation with Russia, the German government is acquiring combat drones and Münkler himself is giving a seminar at Humboldt University under the title “Theories of war: new wars, humanitarian interventions, drone wars.” In his new book, Macht in der Mitte (Power in the Middle), Münkler demands that Germany once again “play the difficult role of ‘taskmaster’” in Europe. The German government is working on this too!

Herfried Münkler declares Germany to be Europe’s “hegemon”: here.
At the end of August [2015], Mehring Verlag will publish the German edition of the book Scholarship or War Propaganda? The Return of German Militarism and the Dispute at Berlin’s Humboldt University.

Gingko biloba trees and chemistry

This video is called Ginkgo biloba: A Tree that Conquers Time.

From the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis:

Advancement in the chemical analysis and quality control of flavonoid in Ginkgo biloba

14 March 2015


• The ginkgo flavonoid related articles (from 2009 to 2014) were reviewed.

• Chemical composition and routine analysis of ginkgo flavonoid were summarized.

• Evaluation criterion of ginkgo flavonoid purification was discussed.

• Direct and indirect quantitative methods of ginkgo flavonoid were compared.


Flavonoids are the main active constituents in Ginkgo biloba L., which have been suggested to have broad-spectrum free-radical scavenging activities. This review summarizes the recent advances in the chemical analysis of the flavonoids in G. biloba and its finished products (from 2009 to 2014), including chemical composition, sample preparation, separation, detection and different quality criteria.

More than 70 kinds of flavonoids have been identified in this plant. In this review, various analytical approaches as well as their chromatographic conditions have been described, and their advantages/disadvantages are also compared. Quantitative analyses of Ginkgo flavonoids applied by most pharmacopeias start with an acidic hydrolysis followed by determination of the resulting aglycones using HPLC.

But increasing direct assay of individual flavonol glycosides found that many adulterated products were still qualified by the present tests. To obtain an authentic and applicable analytical approach for quality evaluation of Ginkgo and its finished products, related suggestions and opinions in the recent publications are mainly discussed in this review. This discussion on chemical analyses of Ginkgo flavonoids will also be found as a significant guide for widely varied natural flavonoids.

This video from Harvard University in the USA says about itself:

The Ginkgo’s Secrets

Gingko expert Peter Del Tredici shares highlights about his favorite “living fossil” at the Arnold Arboretum.

Human evolution, alcohol and chemistry

This video is called African Animals Getting Drunk From Ripe Marula Fruit.

By Bob Yirka today:

Study shows pre-human ancestors adapted to metabolize ethanol long before humans learned about fermentation

19 hours ago

(—A team of researchers in the U.S. has found evidence to support the notion that our pre-human ancestors were able to metabolize ethanol long before our later ancestors learned to take advantage of fermentation—to create alcoholic beverages. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they genetically sequenced proteins from modern primates and used what they found to work backwards to discover just how long ago our ancestors have been able to metabolize ethanol.

Humans have been consuming beverages that make them tipsy, drunk and/or sick for a very long time, of that there is little doubt. But why do we have the ability to metabolize ethanol in the first place? That’s what the team set out to answer. They began by sequencing an enzyme called ADH4—it’s what’s responsible for allowing us to metabolize ethanol. Other have it as well, but not all metabolize ethanol as well as we do. By sequencing ADH4 found in a 28 including 17 that were primates, the team was able to create a family tree of sorts based on ethanol metabolizing ability. The team then tested those sequences for their metabolizing ability by synthesizing nine kinds of the ADH4 enzyme. Doing so showed the researchers that most early primates had very little ability to metabolize ethanol for most of their early history.

Then, about 10 million years ago, some of the ancestors of modern humans suddenly were able to do a much better job of it, while others that diverged and led to apes such as orangutans, did not. This discovery led the team to wonder what might have occurred to cause this to come about. They note that other evidence has shown that around this same time, the planet cooled slightly, making life a little more difficult for our tree dwelling ancestors. They suggest they began climbing down out of the trees to eat the fruit that fell, which gave them a food advantage and a reason for developing the ability to metabolize —otherwise they would have become too drunk from eating the fermenting fruit to defend themselves or live otherwise normal lives. If true, the theory would also offer a major clue as to why our became terrestrial.

Explore further: Study unlocks secret of how fruit flies choose fruit with just the right amount of ethanol

More information: Hominids adapted to metabolize ethanol long before human-directed fermentation, PNAS, Matthew A. Carrigan, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1404167111


Paleogenetics is an emerging field that resurrects ancestral proteins from now-extinct organisms to test, in the laboratory, models of protein function based on natural history and Darwinian evolution. Here, we resurrect digestive alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH4) from our primate ancestors to explore the history of primate–ethanol interactions. The evolving catalytic properties of these resurrected enzymes show that our ape ancestors gained a digestive dehydrogenase enzyme capable of metabolizing ethanol near the time that they began using the forest floor, about 10 million y ago. The ADH4 enzyme in our more ancient and arboreal ancestors did not efficiently oxidize ethanol. This change suggests that exposure to dietary sources of ethanol increased in hominids during the early stages of our adaptation to a terrestrial lifestyle. Because fruit collected from the forest floor is expected to contain higher concentrations of fermenting yeast and ethanol than similar fruits hanging on trees, this transition may also be the first time our ancestors were exposed to (and adapted to) substantial amounts of dietary ethanol.

‘AMERICANS ARE DRINKING THEMSELVES TO DEATH’ “Alcohol is killing Americans at a rate not seen in at least 35 years, according to new federal data. Last year, more than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis, which is primarily caused by alcohol use.” [WaPo]

Shame-faced crabs of the Pacific

This video from the sea near Samal island in the Philippines is about a shame-faced crab, eating a Terebra maculata mollusk.

From Australian Geographic:

Shame-faced crab has nothing to hide about

November 27, 2014

It may look like its hiding its face out of embarrassment, but this crab has everything to be proud of

by Becky Crew

I DON’T THINK I’ve ever loved another crab as much as I love this crab right now. He’s so embarrassed he can barely even look at us. He’s so ashamed that he has to cover his face with his two humungous front pincers. Don’t feel bad, shame-faced crab, we don’t care what you did; you’re just a crab.

Found at depths of up to 50m below the surface of the Indo-Pacific, these large crabs range as far as Madagascar to west, Japan to the north, and throughout Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia a little closer to home.

Despite their looks and their funny little name, shame-faced crabs (Calappa calappa) are no victims. These highly armoured creatures are like walking tanks, their 15cm-long, burnt-caramel-coloured carapace acting as the perfect cover from predators until they have a chance to bury themselves right into the sand. Watch the video [above], it’s almost a little creepy how it inches deeper and deeper into the ocean floor, until all that’s left is a pair of beady eyes and the upper edges of its jagged pincers, looking just like a monster face peering up at you.

Shame-faced crabs don’t have to worry too much about predators, but keep themselves hidden during the day all the same. At night they turn to hunting, targeting little mollusks such as clams, oysters and sea snails. While hard-shelled prey like these present a challenge to many would-be predators, the shame-faced crab has evolved to deal with them expertly.

Of its two huge, meaty pincers, the right one is perfect for cracking into its prey’s tough outer shell. It’s equipped with a single, specially curved tooth that works with the flat surface of the pincer just like a can-opener to cut into its prey. Then the left pincer, which is longer, smaller, and sharper, takes over to extract the flesh from inside.

Being elegant about how you eat your dinner is nothing to be ashamed about, shame-faced crab. Just because the rest of the ocean is filled with barbaric rubes that wouldn’t know a utensil if it landed on them. Chin up, little man!

Coconut crabs in Hawaii: here.

Organic molecules discovery on comet

This 13 November 2014 video is called Rosetta Comet Landing: Philae send first image of 67P.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Philae lander detects organic molecules on surface of comet

Spacecraft beams back evidence of carbon and hydrogen that could provide clues about origins of life on Earth

Richard Gray

Tuesday 18 November 2014 22.58 GMT

The Philae lander has found organic molecules – which are essential for life – on the surface of the comet where it touched down last week.

The spacecraft managed to beam back evidence of the carbon and hydrogen–containing chemicals shortly before it entered hibernation mode to conserve falling power supplies.

Although scientists are still to reveal what kind of molecules have been found on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the discovery could provide new clues about how the early chemical ingredients that led to life on Earth arrived on the planet.

Many scientists believe they may have been carried here on an asteroid or comet that collided with the Earth during its early history.

The DLR German Aerospace Centre, which built the Cosac instrument, confirmed it had found organic molecules.

It said in a statement: “Cosac was able to ‘sniff’ the atmosphere and detect the first organic molecules after landing. Analysis of the spectra and the identification of the molecules are continuing.”

The compounds were picked up by the instrument, which is designed to “sniff” the comet’s thin atmosphere, shortly before the lander was powered down.

It is believed that attempts to analyse soil drilled from the comet’s surface with Cosac were not successful.

Philae was able to work for more than 60 hours on the comet, which is more than 500m miles from Earth, before entering hibernation.

“We currently have no information on the quantity and weight of the soil sample,” said Fred Goesmann principal investigator on the Cosac instrument at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.

Goesmann said his team were still trying to interpret the results, which will hopefully reveal whether the molecules contain other chemical elements deemed important for life.

Professor John Zarnecki, a space scientist at the Open University who was the deputy principal investigator on another of Philae’s instruments, described the discovery as “fascinating”.

“There has long been indirect evidence of organic molecules on comets as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms have been found in comet dust,” he said.

“It has not been possible to see if these are forming complex compounds before and if this is what has been found then it is a tremendous discovery.”

Organic molecules, which are chemical compounds that contain carbon and hydrogen, form the basic building blocks of all living organisms on Earth.

They can take many forms from simple small molecules like methane gas to complex amino acids that make up proteins.

Philae landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko after a 10-year journey through space aboard the Rosetta space probe. Philae’s initial attempt to touch down on the comet’s surface were unsuccessful when it failed to anchor itself properly, causing it to bounce back into space twice before finally coming to rest.

It meant the lander’s final resting place was about half a mile from the initial landing site and left Philae lying at an angle and its solar panels partially obscured.

In a desperate attempt to get as much science from the lander as possible before its meagre battery reserves ran out, scientists deployed a drill to bore down into the comet surface.

It is thought, however, that the drilling was unsuccessful and it failed to make contact with the comet.

But other findings from instruments on the lander, which were beamed back shortly before it powered down into a hibernation mode, suggest that the comet is largely composed of water ice that is covered in a thin layer of dust.

Preliminary results from the Mupus instrument, which deployed a hammer to the comet after Philae’s landing, suggest there is a layer of dust 10-20cm thick on the surface.

Beneath that is very hard water ice, which Mupus data suggests is possibly as hard as sandstone.

“It’s within a very broad spectrum of ice models. It was harder than expected at that location, but it’s still within bounds,” said Professor Mark McCaughrean, senior science adviser to Esa.

“You can’t rule out rock, but if you look at the global story, we know the overall density of the comet is 0.4g/cubic cm. There’s no way the thing’s made of rock.”

At Philae’s final landing spot, the Mupus probe recorded a temperature of –153°C before it was deployed and then once it was deployed the sensors cooled further by 10°C within half an hour.

“If we compare the data with laboratory measurements, we think that the probe encountered a hard surface with strength comparable to that of solid ice,” said Tilman Spohn, principal investigator for Mupus. Scientists hope that as comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko moves closer to the sun in the next few months, some light will start to reach Philae’s solar panels again, giving it enough power to come out of hibernation.

This could allow further analysis to take place on the surface.

“Until then we are going to have to make do with the data we have got,” said Zarnecki.

The Philae spacecraft may not be dead quite yet.