This Is Why The Rosetta Comet Looks Like A Rubber Duck

Posted: Sep 29 2015, 8:48am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 29 2015, 7:49pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
This is Why the Rosetta Comet looks like a Rubber Duck
Courtesy of ESA

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Comet 67P emerged after the low speed collision between two separate comets. The unique rubber duck shape is the result of that collision.

Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft is on a mission to study an icy celestial object called 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Ever since the spacecraft landed on the comet, scientists are puzzled over its unique structure because it has a strange rubber duck shape, which looks quite different from other comets.

Now, scientists have finally found why comet 67P has an odd shape. They say the comet is not a single block of ice and rock.

A photo posted by ESA (@europeanspaceagency) on Sep 28, 2015 at 12:27pm PDT

It is made up of two distinct comets.

After looking at high-resolution images, scientists reached to the conclusion that the odd shape of comet arose after a low-speed collision between two separate, fully developed lobes.

“It is clear from the images that both lobes have an outer envelope of material organized in distinct layers, and we think that these extend for several hundred meters below the surface,” said lead author Matteo Massironi from University of Padova, Italy.

“You can imagine the layering a bit like an onion, except in this case we are considering two separate onions of different size that have grown independently before fusing together.”Scientists believed that fusion was likely occurred in the early years of solar system when planets were still going through the phase of formation.

Besides images, Matteo and his colleagues also used 3D model for more close examination of the surface and how the layers extend from it. They found that layers are tilting in an opposite direction, which is solid evidence that comet was formed after the fusion of two separate lobes. Layers were extended to a depth of 650m in some places.

“This was the first clue that the two lobes are independent, reinforced by the observation that the layers are inclined in opposite directions close to the comet’s neck.” Matteo said.

Rosetta spacecraft started the mission in August last year and is expected to continue orbiting for another year to get maximum information about the celestial body and to learn its importance in our solar system.

They study was published in journal Nature.

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