The Rosetta building blocks of life discovery on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a major breakthrough for the scientific community. The data being sent back by the space probe offers clues iabout the origins of life in our solar system, not to mention the universe. Scientists hope to study the composition and topography of the comet to retrieve more valuable data.
The comet is 13.3 miles in length and weighs about 10 billion tons. It is composed of mostly ice crystals and common dust. The comet has a high density.
“These papers collect the first results, our first scientific analysis of the comet, and set us up for the next year alongside the comet,” said project scientist Matt Taylor.
Scientists believe that it has holes in its internal environment after using a high-density camera to take photographs of the surface. While the camera revealed 70 percent of the area, there is much more to explore under it. The Rosetta data coming back from the probe is exciting.
Rosetta’s building blocks of life data contained amino acids and carboxylic acids. These have been seen on other comets too, but none have the chemical makeup that this one shows. The comet is many billions of years old.
The surface of it is fascinating with cliffs, hills, stones and ridges, making it an interesting comet to analyze by the Rosetta Spacecraft. A whole cornucopia of information about the conditions during the early phases of the universe could be deduced from the findings. Comet 67P appears to be losing water through the “neck” that connects its two ball-shaped ends and contains less ice on its surface than expected, according to the data collected by Rosetta.
Rosetta was launched into space in 2004 on an Ariane 5 rocket to become the first spacecraft to orbit a comet. Previous missions had conducted successful flybys of seven other comets. Rosetta is one of ESA’s Horizon 2000 cornerstone missions.
Rosetta’s building blocks of life was determined by using 12 instruments, and the Philae lander, with nine additional instruments. The mission will orbit 67P for 17 months and will complete the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted. It has been estimated that about 2,000 people assisted in the mission in some capacity during the past decade.
The unseen area on the comet, which which lies in the southern hemisphere, will be mapped as it emerges from the darkness of winter. A team of scientists defined 19 regions on 67P, giving each the name of an Ancient Egyptian deity. These zones - and more are likely to be added in future - display five basic terrain types, from areas of high dust accumulation to exposed craggy faces composed of rock-like material.
The researchers report some fascinating behaviors over and above the expected sight of jets of gas and dust hurtling away from the comet. This happens as the surface becomes warmer and the ice begins to vaporize. as its ices warm and vaporize. For example, these jets produce strong “winds” that appear to drive dust particles into dunes.
“It sounds highly improbable,” commented Nic Thomas from Switzerland’s University of Bern. “We see sand dunes on the Earth, on Mars and on Venus, but all of those objects have gravity and thick atmospheres.
While Rosetta’s building blocks of life data was collected on the comet, the European Space Agency probe is going to keep scientists busy for years, but it is clear already that many of the old ideas about how comets are put together and how they behave will have to change.