Scientists who studied the information gleaned from Rosetta spacecraft orbiting the comet, discovered that whatever it is that envelopes the body of the ancient space traveler is nothing but simple molecules. It is also enclosed by volatile gas vapors.
Rosetta was sent on a historic voyage in 2004 to discover what comets are really made of. It traveled to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the first mission ever to try to land on a comet. The project is under the auspices of European Space Agency. The spacecraft completed more than ten years of its space trek and made the highly anticipated rendezvous with the comet in 2014.
Last November, it released its probe, Philae Lander which made a landing on the comet’s surface to gather some information about it. The long held belief that comets are nothing but icy remnants from the creation of the planets some 4.6 billion years ago was also completely debunked.
The purpose of the Rosetta project was to gather data concerning the formation of the solar system in its early days by making research study of what is considered one of its primeval artifacts which are nothing else but the comets.
The Philae Lander is still indisposed up to now and experiments assigned to it will have to wait a little bit longer. However, everything is still on target. There were already 7 published papers in the Journal of Science as of January 22, discussing data the Rosetta spacecraft managed to send during the 2 months while revolving around the comet.
Expecting more complex carbon-containing molecules from the comet, the scientists found only simple hydrocarbons instead. So if this is the case, the question about how organic compounds are created and how they are distributed throughout the solar system remains unanswered.
Information concerning how comets have transformed to what they are now, has to wait till comet 67P nears the sun and wakes up from its long hibernation and reverts back to its coma-like appearance, complete with its unmistakable head and it’s distinguishing tail.
Researchers have begun to determine different types of gasses as they are being released from the nucleus of the comet’s body. “We’re taught that comets are made mostly of water ice. For this comet, the coma sometimes contains much more carbon dioxide than water vapor”, says Rosetta scientist Stephen Fuselier, also with Southwest Research Institute.