New NASA Study Finds Change In Water Fingerprint Of Comet

Posted: Mar 1 2017, 6:02am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

New ASA Study Finds Change in Water Fingerprint of Comet
Scientists from NASA's Goddard Center for Astrobiology observed the comet C/2014 Q2 - also called Lovejoy - and made simultaneous measurements of the output of H2O and HDO, a variant form of water. This image of Lovejoy was taken on Feb. 4, 2015 -- the same day the team made their observations and just a few days after the comet passed its perihelion, or closest point to the sun. Credit: Courtesy of Damian Peach USAGE RESTRICTIONS
  • NASA research reveals change in Comet water

A new NASA study suggests that a trip past the sun may have selectively altered the production of one form of water in a comet.

NASA research found changes in comet’s water production. NASA astronomer detected the comet in 2015. The astronomer was from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who detected Oort cloud comet C/2014 Q2.

The comet was named Lovejoy. The research team observed the comet after Lovejoy passed close to sun. It was observed at infrared wavelengths through NASA's partnership in the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

The research team focused more on comet’s water measuring the H2O release,including HDO that’s the heavy water production. In water the molecules include two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

Hydrogen atoms’ one proton when combined with neutron it becomes HDO. The measurements helped scientists calculate the D to H ratio of the chemical fingerprints that gives a clue of comets formation in the cloud around the young sun in early solar system. Researchers also found through DtoH values to see how much of water on earth came from comets.

The researchers also compered their studies with other research, and used both to study the difference. HDO was 3 times higher in output after perihelion, whereas H2O was constant. It showed that D to H ratio was 2 to 3 times more than earlier values.

Comet change was surprising and highlights the urge for more measurements of D to H in comets at different times in their orbits, said Lucas Paganini, a researcher with the Goddard Center for Astrobiology and lead author of the study, available online in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Scientists observed that if D to H value changes with time, it would be wrong to say that comets contributed only a little of earth’s water than asteroids.

In the past, it was difficult to measure HDO production, because HDO is always less. Scientists measure HDO due to the brightness of Lovejoy. The change in Lovejoy’s D to H was due to radiations near sun.

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