In between 2014 to 2016, the Rosetta spacecraft took a journey in space along with comet 67P. Also known as Churyumov-Gerasimenko, two recently released studied offered new details about the comet.
As such, they revealed the changes registered across its surface. Also, the team witnessed a giant avalanche, one which offered them a great chance. Thanks to it, they were able to cast a look at the comet’s inside.
Comet 67P and The Rosetta Mission
The Rosetta was a spacecraft specifically deployed so as to study the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet. Launched in 2004, it offered detailed information and orbited the space rock. Its mission ended back in September 2016 as the spacecraft landed on comet 67P. Following this event, its communication to Earth stopped. However, scientists continued studying the data it beamed back.
Two studies on the matter were released in the Science and Nature Astronomy journals. Each targeted the changes taking place on comet 67P following a specific event. Researchers were able to notice a great avalanche which took place on the space rock.
This has led to numerous changes to its surface, and not only. It also offered science a unique glance into the interior of a comet. The study paper on this respective aspect was published in Nature Astronomy. In contrast, the Science paper targets the comet’s surface changes and its past activity.
During its mission, the Rosetta spacecraft noted many changes in the comet. These included massive boulders dislodging and rolling across its surface or fast retreating steep slopes. Observations also noted the dune-like ripple effects created by erupting gasses as wind blew them across the rock.
Research also detected a large crack, one which continued growing. This may have also led to the comet’s splitting up and exposing its interior.
What Drove The Significant Changes On Comet 67P?
According to the scientists involved in the two studies, heat may have played a huge role. Most of the changes noted across the comet’s surface could have been caused by the solar heating. This may have considerably raised the comet’s daytime side temperature above freezing. Which in turn led to its jetting out vapor and dust. These may have gathered into its tail or evacuated into space.
As the comet lost vapor and dust, it may have also increased its speed. This may have led to a rise in its spinning rate. In its turn, this could have increased its already large fracture and then led to its breaking apart.
The data recorded by Rosetta from comet 67P is seemingly raising even more questions. As the study teams point out, they are already revealing a lot of information about a comet’s evolution process. This seems to be subjected to diverse changes, each of its own nature.
Further studies may provide new and important clues into a comet’s interior structure and even its origins. One of the researcher stated that:
“I don’t know exactly what these things are telling us, but it is clear that they are revealing a very complex morphology.”
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