Rosetta Spacecraft Detects Oxygen on Comet

Friday, October 30, 2015

OOn Comet

In what could help solve the mysteries surrounding the formation of the universe, European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has for the first time discovered oxygen molecules in a comet. The discovery published in the journal Nature states that Rosetta had been studying the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for over a year now and has detected many gases including oxygen, pouring from its nucleus.

Previously molecular oxygen was discovered in Jupiter and Saturn, but this is the first time that it has been discovered on a comet. Co-author of the paper, Kathrin Altwegg said, “It is the most surprising discovery we have made so far in 67P because oxygen was not among the molecules suspected in a cometary comas”.

The team at first denied the presence of oxygen since molecular oxygen is very reactive. The reason behind this was the presence of immense hydrogen when the solar system was formed. Experiments show that molecular oxygen reacts with hydrogen and disappears. The team in order to be confident about the presence of oxygen analysed more than 3000 samples collected between September 2014 and March 2015. 

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