Procyon Spacecraft Investigates Water Mystery On Comet 67P

Posted: Jan 25 2017, 7:46am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Procyon Spacecraft Investigates Water Mystery on Comet 67P
The PROCYON spacecraft and comet 67P/Churumov-Gerasiment (Conceptual Image). Credit: NAOJ/ESA/Go Miyazaki

PROCYON is a micro spacecraft which observes entire cometary

A team of astronomers observed hydrogen coma of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in September 2015 with the help of LAICA telescope. The team included astronomers from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, University of Michigan, Kyoto Sangyo University, Rikkyo University and the University of Tokyo. The team also studied the exact water discharge rate.

ESA's Rosetta mission was designed to target the comet in 2015. But, being inside the comet the spacecraft was unable to study the comet completely. But, now the astronomers have studied it completely for the first time.

It wasn’t a planned observation of the comet by PROCYON spacecraft, but the team decided to observe it with the help of telescope to get new discoveries. This is the first time that a discovery happened through micro spacecraft. Besides, it was also a low cost mission that supported the results of large missions, like Rosetta mission, becoming a model for large missions.

In Rosetta mission, the comet was studied for two years closely from the comet when it passed by sun on august 2015. But, it could not observe the entire coma as Rosetta was inside the coma. The spacecraft used SWAN telescope that could not observe the comet due to low spatial resolutions.

On the other hand, the observations with the PROCYON are detailed by a small spacecraft having a weight of 65kg that was created by University of Tokyo and other experts. LAICA, the telescope is capable enough to detect hydrogen emitted by atoms. Basic aim of developing LAICA was to create an instrument that could view wide areas in the deep space.

The telescope is small, but has high spatial resolutions that are 10 times more than SWAN telescope. The PROCYON spacecraft started its launch in Dec 2014 along with Hayabusa2 spacecraft.

The astronomers observed the comet entirely and succeeded in deriving the exact water production rates in 2015. They combined the water rates taken by Rosetta with their own observations to understand the entire comet.

The mission was a model for future missions as it was a low cost mission to study comet. Large missions often don’t focus much on certain areas that are further covered through small missions, like the PROCYON spacecraft mission.

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