OCT 02, 2015 12:14 PM PDT

Rosetta Spacecraft Gets First Look at Comet 67P's South Pole

The European Space Agency (ESA) continues to monitor Comet 67P in our Solar System as it has been doing since last year. The agency continues to get incredible shots of the comet, as well as learn more about its formation. Just a couple of days ago, we shared with you how scientists believe that 67P’s dual-lobe design may have been the result of a low-speed collision.
 
This week, the ESA obtained more photographs from Rosetta using the on-board Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO), with one of the photographs showing the “dark side” or the South Pole of the comet, which has never been photographed before. What’s more is the photograph has been taken immediately after a long Winter on the comet.
 

Rosetta snaps first good shot at comet 67P's Southern region.


Scientists now believe that the Southern surface of Rosetta may host icy patches below the surface, as deep as “tens of centimeters,” which are thicker than any ice patches anywhere else on the comet.
 
The odd dual-lobed shape of the comet makes the seasons very irregular. It takes 6.5 Earth years for the comet to orbit the Sun, and during that process, seasons are unevenly distributed between the two lobes due to the fact that they affect the rotation of the comet because of the conflicting gravitational effects of each lobe.
 
Because of the complexity of the rotational seasons on 67P, it has been incredibly hard for scientists to get a good shot of the South pole of the comet during (or just after) its Winter season like this. Moreover, Rosetta has only been at the comet since last year, and since the seasons are spread out along a 6.5-year orbit, there is still much more to study.
 
Mathieu Choukroun from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is leading a study based on the details being picked up by MIRO. The information being obtained suggests ice is present several centimeters below the surface:
 

We observed the ‘dark side’ of the comet with MIRO on many occasions after Rosetta’s arrival at 67P/C-G, and these unique data are telling us something very intriguing about the material just below its surface. Surprisingly, the thermal and electrical properties around the comet’s south pole are quite different to what is found elsewhere on the nucleus. It appears that either the surface material or the material that lies down to a few tens of centimeters below it is extremely transparent at the MIRO wavelengths of 0.5 and 1.6 mm, and could consist mostly of water ice or carbon-dioxide ice.

 
It’s believed that the odd seasonal changes on 67P lead to cycles of precipitation and freezing, which over time, work the liquid into the ground where it then freezes come Winter.
 
Currently, MIRO has been the only device aboard the spacecraft capable of detecting anything on the Southern surface of 67P, but with the Winter season coming to an end, there will be more light and more of 67P will be exposed, allowing Rosetta to use more of its equipment to reveal more of 67P’s surface and hopefully help scientists to learn more about it.

Source: ESA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 08, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 08, 2018
Here's Why NASA is Sending a Probe to the Sun
An upcoming NASA probe will fly closer to the Sun than any before it. Known as the Parker Solar Probe, this spacecraft will study the Sun and many of its q...
SEP 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 04, 2018
This NASA Rocket Will Spend 15 Minutes Gawking at the Sun with X-Ray Vision
NASA is currently eyeballing Friday, September 7th for the third consecutive launch of its Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI), a space vehicle spec...
OCT 03, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 03, 2018
Have Astronomers Discovered An Exomoon for the First Time?
While analyzing data from NASA’s Hubble and Kepler Space Telescopes, astronomers happen upon new exoplanets all the time. But the same can’t be...
OCT 07, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 07, 2018
SpaceX to Launch Satellite, Then Attempt First Falcon 9 Landing on California Soil
Sunday, October 7th is expected to be a special day for SpaceX. The commercial space company is poised to launch a Falcon 9 rocket launch from California&r...
OCT 14, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 14, 2018
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory Enters Safe Mode for Unknown Reasons
A little more than a week ago, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope started exhibiting wonky gyroscope data consistent with a mechanical failure. Consequent...
NOV 11, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 11, 2018
Rocket Lab Successfully Sends Electron Rocket on its First Commercial Flight
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket quickly became of the most prominent means of commercial and private satellite launches, but sending such a massive rocket t...
Loading Comments...