ESA research team may have discovered just how the comet remains in a state of icy condition. It’s the presence of molecular nitrogen trapped in the ice molecules. With that solved, their number one aim now is how to proceed with the mission.
The Rosetta has been hot on the heels of the comet for the past few months. A lot of pictures, data and other information were gathered that answered many of questions the mission is supposed to give. The orbit around the comet is a pioneering feat and a historical one at that. During the entire time that the spacecraft was orbiting the comet, they were treated to some surprises.
The icy comet takes 12.4 hours to complete one rotation on its axis. However, comet 67P is accumulating speed by approximately one second daily. It may not be much at present this might be a sign that it’s preparing to enter it’s next “life cycle.”
“The gas jets coming out of the comet-they are acting like thrusters and are slowing down the comet” ESA flight director for the Rosetta mission, Andrea Accomazzo says.
In a speech delivered this week at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Accomazzo revealed the comet’s changing activity but he said they’re not expecting any dramatic changes soon. However, he continued that the comet’s rotation is not what they expected with the model’s 33 milliseconds daily.
“Okay, it’s not going to slow down completely-but this gives you an order of magnitude for the accuracy we’re now achieving with the navigation of the spacecraft around the comet” Accomazzo says.”
What other revelations did the ESA astronomers make this week with Comet 67P?
So what other discoveries were they able to glean from the historic 67P comet?
One important development, molecular oxygen are trapped within the ice. ESA’s hands are tied are tied right now how to dig dipper without the Philae Lander. They can’t determine where the comet originally came from and what maintains its coldness.
“Its detection is particularly important since molecular nitrogen is thought to have been the most common type of nitrogen available when the solar system was forming” spokespersons with the ESA say. “In the colder outer regions, it likely provided the main source of nitrogen that was incorporated into the gas planets.”
“It also dominates the dense atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan and is present in the atmospheres and surface ices on Pluto and [on] Neptune’s moon Triton.”
Publishing their results in the journal Science, the researchers have these to say, “ The ice on Comet 67P could have trapped the molecular nitrogen at a temperature of minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit, which would not be too far-fetched considering that the comet formed in the same region of space as Triton and Pluto, but still would indicate that perhaps other planets formed under these below freezing temperatures as well.”