Home Front Page Rosetta mission finds pure oxygen and duck-like comet shape

Rosetta mission finds pure oxygen and duck-like comet shape

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has found evidence of oxygen on comet 67P and also discovered some peculiarities regarding its shape.

comet 67p
Credit: European Space Agency

The United States and Russia (previously the Soviet Union) have long dominated the space race, but Europe, Japan, and China, among others, have been trying to get into the mix. In the coming days, the European Space Administration will be publishing numerous articles related to its Rosetta mission, and some of the findings appear to be quick groundbreaking.

Rosetta marks the European Space Administration’s (ESA) arguably most ambitious project, and is considered to be the ESA’s flagship mission. Launched in 2004, the ESA sent the Rosetta spacecraft to comet 67P, a short period comet. Rosetta had to travel 4 billion miles to reach the it.

At least two important discoveries have been made on comet 67P. One, the core of the comet shows a peculiar duck shape, and scientists have been wondering whether this was due to a collision, corrosion, or something else entirely.

Remarkably enough, the comet has a peculiar “rubber duck shape”, closely resembling the popular yellow ducks found floating in many bathtubs. As far as comet 67P goes, it appears that the odd shape was due to two comets colliding and fusing together.

Scientists believe that the two comets likely grazed each other at a slow speed, then separated a bit. The collision would have created debris, including water. Most likely, the comets were pulled together by comets and then the ice melted to fuse the two together.

Rosetta also made another interesting discovery. Comet 67P is rich with oxygen. It appears that the oxygen is largely contained in the interior of the comet, separating it from hydrogen that if combined would fuse into water.

Importantly, 67P does not contain any traces of life, or at least such traces were not discovered. This is actually a slight setback, as the comet does appear to contain two vital precursors for life, namely water and oxygen, yet does not contain life itself.

Up until now, searching for oxygen and water has been among the primary biosignatures scientists in search of alien life have been looking for. Now, however, scientists may have to recalibrate their search criteria as water and oxygen may not be enough to jump start life.