Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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Rosetta News: Comet 67P has a “twin”

Posted: July 17, 2014

Rosetta News: Comet 67P has a “twin”

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, which is set to provide the first ever close-up inspection of a comet, has found a surprise in Comet 67P.

Images from the onboard imaging system show that the comet's nucleus consists of two distinctly separated parts. This makes the comet a “contact binary,” which means it is made of two differently sized nuclei joined together.

Professor Mike Combi helped develop two devices on the Rosetta spacecraft that will analyze the comet’s composition. Researchers hope the contents of the comet will give hints about the origin of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago.

Professor Tamas Gombosi and his research group are also involved with the mission. They'll study and simulate how quickly the comet outgases material from its nucleus to its tail as it rings around the sun. They'll be involved in examining what elements are in the comet's tail, atmosphere and ionosphere, as well as how fast the electrified particles in the ionosphere are traveling.

To read more about the comet, please visit ESA.

(Image Credit: nasa.gov.)

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