Scientists' interest in comets continues to grow as a recent discovery on a comet known as 67P has scientists both baffled and intrigued, but the reason for the interest has nothing to do with what scientists were planning to discover on the comet.
As it appears, comet 67P has large sinkhole-like structures that are reportedly around 200 meters wide and hundreds of meters deep into the core of the comet, and interestingly, they continue to form right before our very eyes.
There is no concrete evidence as to what caused them, but scientists think that they were probably formed much like a basic sinkhole here on the planet Earth, where pockets of air under the ground simply gave way, allowing the ground to plummet down and fill the pocket.
The image below, which was taken by the European Space Agency's spacecraft Rosetta, shows an example of one of the deep sinkholes that are present on 67P:
Scientists guess that heat from the comet could be melting ice that is forming these pockets of air and allowing the sinkholes to form. Then, once the sinkhole forms, sunlight further exacerbates the ice-melting process, making the holes even larger. Interestingly, these holes are found mostly on the North side of the comet, while the South side remains much smoother in terms of its terrain.
67P isn't the first comet in the universe to have these large formations on it, but it is providing scientists with a front-row seat to watching them form before their very eyes. Some of the sinkholes are more active than others; gasses are escaping from the holes, suggesting that some may have collapsed more much more recently than others.
Comet lander Philae is going to have to be careful not to fall into one of these large gaping holes as it explores the comet 67P and sends data back to Rosetta.
Source: ESA via The Guardian