When I wrote about Rosetta about a year ago I was really coming into my own with the style of this blog. I had a lot of fun with that article – it was quirky and my friend really dug it. So I thought, hey, I think it’s time to write about space again.
So what has our dear Rosetta been up to lately? A lot, apparently. She’s been a busy girl. In my last post, she was on her way to a date with comet 67P. How did it turn out? Did she excuse herself to go to the bathroom? Nope, it seems she had dinner and sexual intercourse with the thing. What a rouse! My Rosetta all grown up. *weeps*
It’s funny. In the advent of writing my last Rosetta blog the Democrats had just lost a bunch of elections. This time around, I write this a day after the first Democratic debates. Gosh, what a snoozer that was! And well, I’m beginning to think my antidote to a bad Democratic hangover is space travel news. It’s been working pretty good so far!
In the last post I was eager to know what Rosetta’s findings would be. But before we get into that allow me to give you some background deets on the comet itself. Founded by Soviet astronomers Klim Churyomiv and Svetla Gersimenko (whom the comet was named after) in ’69, 67P/C-G has 19 distinct regions. Each region is named after an Egyptian deity. This is why they named the probe Rosetta, because it’s also of Egyptian origin. Some of the names are: Seth, Atum, Babi, and Nut. Each corresponding to a geological distinction in the comet.
How did this comet come about? Scientists estimate the comet was created shortly after the Solar System emerged – more than 4 billions years ago. Scientists say 67P/C-G likely formed when two separate objects collided during the early stages of the Solar System. Matteo Massironi, professor at the University of Padova, Italy, adds, “The fusions should have happened when dust was transmuting and planets were growing in the inner regions”.
Now if this thing is that freakin’ old, it must have definitely played a part in the creation of many of the planets in our galaxy. And these guys more or less agree with me. We know the Solar System had a hand in creating the physical constitution of asteroids and comets, so we can surmise that comets and asteroids did the same with planets.
Rosetta took some pictures. And guess what? The comet looks like a giant rubber ducky. The two lobes connecting the two main bodies are in the shape of a neck. See, I knew 67P would be a suitable playmate for Rosetta! It’s the way love goes.
67P was so enamored by Rosetta that he was caught singing in the shower.
Using Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium magnetometer, which sounds like sci-fi technology if you ask me, scientists detected a string of comet sounds inaudible to humans. In case you didn’t know it’s impossible to talk in space, so this was some sort of weird space chatter that only other comets can understand. Similar to how whales communicate underwater. The ESA converted the magnometer data into sounds us Earthlings can comprehend. 67P must have been really horny because the “song” was different from other sounds that have been recorded by other comets in the past. It’s physical properties were different.
Let’s keep in mind that recently 67P reached perihelion. Perihelion is when a comet or planet is at its closest point to the Sun. So there’s a buttload of activity taking place in the comet right now. Scientists wonder whether 67P will change its chanson d’amour as it nears the Sun.
You can listen to the song here: http://www.space.com/30323-mystery-of-comet67p-singing-solved.html
Charles Darwin spoke about the geometrical ratio of increase which posits that every organic being is said to be striving to increase in numbers. Right now comets such as 67P are trying to increase in numbers. This is why it mated with Rosetta which is not a comet but a man made invention – a machine. In this case, we have a trans species ratio of increase. Now, please consider my wild theory or I will have no recourse but to label you transphobic. No wait, transastrophobic. Yeah, I just made that up. Put it in the books because I coined it. Trans-astro-phobic.
On a serious note, let’s move on to the main purpose of this post. Did comets bring organic chemicals to Earth? Not only do I want to know about this, the ESA wants to establish a link between terrestrial and cosmic water. Well, we know that during the early days of the Solar System comets were responsible for bringing water and other ingredients to the inner planets. This is known from the chemical make up of comets. We know meteors had a hand to play as well.
So far Rosetta has detected argon, nitrous, hydrogen and deuteron.
Hydrogen is a positively charged particle, while deuteron is a subatomic particle.
Thanks to Rosetta’s mass spectrometer argon ( a noble gas ) was discovered. This is a key breakthrough in the project because noble gases are hard to find in comets. And scientists see this as an important step in determining the noble gas inventory of terrestrial planets. The argon was found inside the icy nucleus of the comet and was later released into space. In my last post I wondered if ice was brought over by a comet. Well, it looks like that’s a possibility. At some point some of that ice containing argon may have landed on Earth while traveling through space. But people think that argon tells us more about how the comet formed and less about the role comets played in the creation of planet Earth. Argon makes up about 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere, while the comet is full of argon. True, but we should expect the molecular makeup of a planet and a comet, really far away from each other, to be significantly different. However, this difference alone is not the only criteria we can go by if we want to shoot down the hypothesis.
Nitrogen was also found. Nitrogen is present in Saturn’s moon, Titan, and is present in the atmospheric ices on Pluto and Neptune’s moon Triton. Nitrogen is abundant in these planets. Earth is also dominated by nitrogen. So here we see that Earth has more in common with other planets. And while this makes sense, it doesn’t exclude the possibility that comets may have also played a role in Earth’s creation. Plus, it is in these cold outer reaches that other comets, including 67P, are believed to have formed. Nitrogen would have been part of the building blocks of life when Earth was in its initial developmental stages.
In the first hundred million years of Earth’s history hydrogen cyanide rained down steadily. This compound was part of chemical reactions that created early organisms on Earth. Nitrogen was found wound up in compounds such as HCN in 67P’s nucleus. So we have more proof. And while we know that the dissemination of HCN was due to meteors crashing on young Earth, it could be said that comets and meteors were both responsible for the creation of Earth; to varying degrees. And Tansu Daylan, from Science in the News (a Harvard endorsed website) agrees with me. Since comets are old and contain significant reservoirs of ice, it is plausible that comets may be responsible for bringing water to Earth through an extended episode of comet bombardment. He concludes that knowing more about comets will lead to a better understanding of our origins as well.
Now onto the last two findings. Comets can hold large reservoirs of water. Most are leftovers from the formation of the Solar System. Both the water on Earth and 67P have a mix of hydrogen and deuteron water molecules. The comets’ water molecules are “heavier”. This is because the chemical makeup of comets is different due to the melting process that takes place. And Rosetta observed frozen material on the surface turn into sprays of vapor and boulder sized chunks of ice and rocks were ejected into space. Which, incidentally, almost knocked over Rosetta.
There’s a lot that points to the claim that comets played a role in the creation of Earth. As I have shown, several key ingredients found on Earth were also found on 67P. We’ll have to wait until all the data has been gathered from Rosetta to really come to a solid conclusion.