Rosetta Spacecraft Unravels The Mystery Of Comet 67P Dust Jets

Posted: May 24 2018, 1:15pm CDT | by , Updated: May 24 2018, 2:31pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Rosetta Spacecraft Unravels the Mystery of Comet 67P Dust Jets
Left: Shortly after sunrise, impressive jets of gas and dust can be seen above the Hapi region on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Right: Computer simulations reproduce these structures. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS

New study shows for the first time that the unusual shape of the comet is responsible for this phenomenon

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is one of the most geologically active bodies in our solar system. When the sun rises over the comet and warms its surface, the object begins to emit jets of dust into the space. These jet-like structures form a visible atmosphere or shroud of gas and dust called coma and it can be seen in the images taken by OSIRIS camera on Rosetta spacecraft. Researchers believe that the rugged, duck-shaped structure of the comet is responsible for these jets that occur regularly every morning on its surface.

"When the Sun rises over a part of the comet, the surface along the terminator almost instantaneously becomes active. The jets of gas and dust, which we then observe within the coma, are very reliable: they are found each morning in the same places and in a similar form.” Lead researcher Dr. Xian Shi from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) said.

Comets are like snowballs of rock, dust and frozen gases. As they come close to the sun during their orbit, they spew dust and gases due to heat. But in this case, the cometary activity is different. Despite the fact that the frost is distributed fairly evenly over the entire surface of comet 67P, it still emits gas and dust in the form of jets instead of homogeneous cloud. In the latest study, researchers analyzed different images of the Hapi region located on the "neck" of the comet and were able to gain a better understanding of the forces driving the process. Researchers found that the phenomenon is mainly caused by the unusual shape and jagged topography of the comet.

Frost forms at night on the cold comet surface and begins to evaporate as soon as sun touches it. Some regions of the comet are located at lower altitudes or in the shade where sunlight reaches later. As a result, they evaporate frost less efficiently.

"The complex shape of Rosetta's comet makes many investigations difficult. But for this study it was a blessing.” Shi said.

The find was made possible by the observations from ESA's Rosetta mission. The spacecraft investigated comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from August 2014 to September 2016 and showed unprecedented details of the comet. The mission came to an end on September 30, with a controlled touchdown of the spacecraft on the comet 67p.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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