New Study Reveals Similarities, Relationships Between Chemicals Found On Comets


There are close similarities and definite relationships between chemicals existing on comets, even if these comets differ from one another in their overall chemical composition.

This was highlighted in a study published in the November issue of Icarus and sponsored by NASA's Planetary Astronomy and Planetary Atmospheres Programs. The study is part of the research work currently being done on the solar system's primordial bodies, which are composed of materials that have remained the same since the formation of the solar system.

In their research, space scientists analyzed the composition of hazy comas and tails of 30 comets to explore the relationships between chemicals found on different comets. They discovered that some chemical ices regularly appeared side by side with other chemicals, while others appeared on their own or separately from other chemicals.

"This relates to how the chemicals are stored together or sequestered in the nucleus, or body of the comet," said the paper's lead author, Neil Dello Russo, a space scientist at the Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland.

Clue To Structure Of Solar System

The study focused on simple yet abundant chemicals such as carbon monoxide, water, methane and ammonia in coming to the conclusions.

Noting that the missions by NASA and the ESA do reveal huge details, Dello Russo added that the new research has brought those findings into a larger chemical context within the overall comet population.

Also, the relationships of the chemicals would help in explaining more about the formation of the solar system.

The findings imply that a different chemical signature exists in each comet. It also talks about two classes of comets: the short-period ones from around the Kuiper Belt and the long-period comets found in the Oort cloud.

Using several instruments, including a high resolution infrared spectrometer, the study observed differences in comet tails. One of the spectrometers used was the Near-Infrared Spectrometer at the W.M. Keck Observatory.

Dello Russo credited the breakthrough to recent advancements to infrared spectrometers in detecting volatile chemicals even in fainter comets. Such technological strides allowed for a large group of comets to be traced for significant trends.

Comet 67P Flare-Up

Meanwhile, a new study has disclosed that the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko flare-up was caused by solar materials that led to a flare 100 times brighter than usual in some parts of the visual spectrum.

Charged solar particles rammed into comet 67P and the ESA's Rosetta spacecraft observed that the icy wanderer had brightened exceptionally. Earlier, the perception of scientists was that the flare-up came from materials within the comet.

However, new data says a burst of charged particles from the sun was responsible for the coronal mass ejection.

The coronal mass ejection was triggered by a substantial increase in the hydrogen, carbon and oxygen emission lines that increased the average brightness by a hundred times on the night of Oct. 5 and 6, 2015, said researcher John Noonan in a feature. The University of Colorado graduate presented his study at the meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences in California in October.

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