Rosetta spacecraft send back data on Wednesday which shows some massive sinkholes on Comet 67P, the size of Egypt’s Great Pyramids. Comet 67P is also known as Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
A study published in the journal Sciences states that scientists have theories that the pits were formed when material on the comets surface collapsed but as to what the object could have been so far they are clueless, but the method is similar to they way sinkholes on Earth are formed.
The Comet’s, surface has been a reason for speculation since August. The Rosetta spacecraft has found cavities, which are 656 feet wide (200 meters) in a diameter, plus 180 meters (590 feet) deep, by comparison the Great Pyramid is 756 feet across and is 455 feet tall.
Comets like 67P are made up of stone, organics and ices; basically they are mini heaps of gravel. They come and bind together because of gravity leaving a lot of clear spots. Why the pit area starts falling apart is still a mystery to scientist. One theory is that as the comet moves closer to the sun it warms up the comets ordeal, some of the sinkholes are moving out the jets of dust particles.
These discoveries will open doors for scientists into researching how these comets are formed and how they evolve.
Finding the massive pit was a total surprise says Paul Weissman from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
“We see jets arising from the fractured areas of the walls inside the pits. These fractures mean that volatiles trapped under the surface can be warmed more easily and subsequently escape into space,” lead researcher Jean-Baptiste Vincent, with the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research
Rosetta has been researching these comets since the last 6 and half years, similar circular holes have been seen on the surface of the other comets and there also seems to be an unnamed material developing and collecting in these pits.
Scientists have determined that August is the time when the comet is closest to the Sun and when the pits are freshly formed holes.
There have been 18 pits so far found on comet 67P’s surface but none of them are located near where Europe’s Philae Lander settled in November.
Scientists are trying to reestablish their links with Rosetta and Philae in order to receive more data and find out more information about the comets and their sinkholes.
The European Space Agency has extended Rosetta’s mission, which was due to end in December, to September 2016.