Comet 67P has been yielding strange findings ever since the Philae lander made its famous triple landing in August. Perhaps the strangest finding yet is that the water, which lies beneath the surface, is chemically different from that of Earth’s water, thus challenging the idea that water came to earth on other similar comets.
As reported by the Inquisitr, the Rosetta spacecraft has been maneuvering closer and closer to the comet. While no water is visible on the surface, Rosetta detected water vapor emitting from within the comet.
This is significant because it has long been believed by scientists that comets such as Rosetta’s Comet are remnants from the beginning of the universe, and that these comets are responsible for delivering water to the Earth. This begs the question of where Earth got its water, if not from comets such as this. As unusual as this finding is, there is more going on with this strange comet.
The Guardian reported earlier that when the Philae craft landed, its sensors detected organic compounds essential for life on Earth. These compounds, comprised of carbon and hydrogen, could well indicate that as suspected, life was carried to this planet by the cosmic postal service via carriers like comet 67P.
Fred Goesmann, principal investigator on the Cosac instrument at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, told the Guardian, “There has long been indirect evidence of organic molecules on comets as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms have been found in comet dust.”
“It has not been possible to see if these are forming complex compounds before and if this is what has been found then it is a tremendous discovery.”
The surface of Rosetta’s Comet, while covered with ice, is fantastically textured with an array of cracks, valleys, cliffs, boulders, dunes, and “goosebumps” 10 feet in diameter. What makes this discovery so unusual is that there is no atmosphere to speak of that would contribute to this landscape. Nevertheless, we do have a clue as to how this comet may have gotten its features.
The pits on the surface are steep sided and flat on the bottom with some ejecting dust plumes. It is possible that when the comet ejects these plumes, it creates a soft wind which may be at least partially responsible for texturing the comet. With the absence of gravity, it would not take very much to push loose rocks and boulders around, and the dust would travel quite a ways, possibly making the dunes on the comets surface. But wait, there’s more.
According to Discovery News, Rosetta’s Comet has the density of cork or wood, and is quite porous. In fact, its bulk may be 80 percent empty space, and despite the fact that it is large, would float if it were placed in the ocean. This comet not only looks like a rubber duck, it floats like one too.
As the comet nears the sun, all sorts of strange things begin to happen. Gasses, which are emitting primarily from the mid section, will become more volatile and eject even further and bits of the comet break off and eject into space. So far, the gasses ejected include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and water, each at varying degrees depending on where in the comet they spring from.
Michael A’Hearn, a planetary scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park, and member of the Rosetta science team, spoke to Wired regarding Comet 67P and its tour of the sun, saying that he expects the comet to get a lot more interesting as the gasses inside the comet heat up and become more volatile as it gets closer to the sun.
Currently, the scientists involved with analyzing the data from the Rosetta mission are trying to assess whether or not the strange, duck-like shape of 67P is a result of a two comet collision or erosion. One thing is certain: We have much more to learn from this strange comet.