Rosetta Likely Detects Frozen Water on Comet
After the European Space Agency (EPA) landed a probe on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, it hasn’t been in the news much. Part of this is because Philae, the probe, wound up in a shaded area with insufficient solar energy to function and immediately went to sleep after landing. At present, EPA scientists are unsure of the exact location or status of the probe as it is not responsive at present. This may change as the comet continues to approach the sun as the landing spot may be exposed to more sunlight.
Until then, Rosetta’s imaging systems have been studying the surface of 67P for reflective properties that could give more information about the surface composition of the comet.
The results are displayed in the color-enhanced header image of this post. The Hapi region or “neck” of 67P are more bluish where the remainder of the comet has a reddish tint. This is not how it appears to the human eye, but Rosetta’s filters can detect subtle differences in the wavelengths of the reflected light. OSIRIS researchers are convinced that the bluish region reflects a higher concentration of frozen water at the surface of the comet. This conclusion is also based on other missions to comets that observed similar reflected wavelength variations also attributed compositionally to frozen water.
The next step is to use a second set of instruments called VIRTIS to evaluate the spectral signature of the molecules in the infared reflection to potentially confirm that it is made of water.
Additional source: Phys.org
Image Credit: Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA