Rosetta – Scientists have found further evidence that comets harbour the building blocks of life, and have collected the first close-up data that will help them understand how these celestial bodies evolve as they hurtle toward the sun.
According to BBC News, Rosetta mission managers analyzed images of the comet’s surface that shows a texture reminiscent of goosebumps. The discovery is just one of a series of studies published with the latest wave of data from the historic Rosetta comet-tracking mission.
“We still have to model this, but I think they really could be pointing back in time to the early days of the Solar System – to the formation of the building blocks of cometary nuclei,” Holger Sierks, the lead author one of the Science journal studies from the Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research, told BBC News. “Our thinking is that accreting gas and dust would have formed little ‘pebbles’ at first that grew and grew until they got up to the size of these goosebumps – about 3m in size – and for whatever reason, they couldn’t then grow any further.
“Eventually, they’d have found a region of instability and clumped together to form the nucleus.”
The studies themselves are indicative of the significance of the historic landing on a comet, something that has never been done before and is offering the scientific community an opportunity they have never had. In the coming year, Comet 67P will enter the solar system and hurdle toward the sun.
“Remember, these objects would have formed at least 4.5 billion years ago. Where else could you see physical evidence of processes that were happening that long ago?” Stephen Lowry, a Rosetta mission member, told BBC News. “So, it’s very exciting, but we have to be sure that this regular lattice structure represents genuine cometesimals and is not some feature that has somehow been produced as a result of ices simply sublimating from the comet; because we don’t see the goosebumps everywhere.”