Comet atmospheres have long been an interest of scientists. And thanks to a NASA instrument onboard the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, their curiosity has been sated.
One of the things that scientists found out thanks to the Alice instrument is that electrons near the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was the cause of the rapid breakdown of carbon dioxide and water molecules from the comet’s surface instead of the originally thought protons coming from the sun.
The current reason Alice is onbored the Rosetta is to study the workings, origin, and composition of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
In addition to being able to gather information that isn’t obtainable from earth-base or earth-orbit based observation, the Alive has more than 1,000 times the capability to gather data than instruments of last generations while weighing less than 4 kilograms and drawing 4 watts of power.
According principal investigator for the Alice instrument at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, Alan Stern: “The discovery we are reporting is quite unexpected. It shows us the value of going to comets to observe them up close, since this discovery simply could not have been made from Earth or Earth orbit with any existing or planned observatory. And, it is fundamentally transforming our knowledge of comets.”