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


Rosetta detects molecular nitrogen

Posted: March 20, 2015

Rosetta detects molecular nitrogen

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has made the first measurement of molecular nitrogen at a comet, according to an ESA news release, providing clues about the temperature environment in which Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko formed.

Rosetta arrived at the comet in August 2014 and has since been collecting extensive data on the comet and its environment with its suite of 11 science instruments.

According to the ESA, the in situ detection of molecular nitrogen has long been sought at a comet. Nitrogen had only previously been detected bound up in other compounds, including hydrogen cyanide and ammonia, for example.

“It is very likely that Earth's atmosphere and oceans did not come from Jupiter family comets like 67P/CG. This is a major new discovery that poses a new challenge for cosmochemists who want to explain how the solar system was formed and evolved,” Professor Tamas Gombosi, a co-investigator for the Rosina instrument on Rosetta, states.

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(Image: NASA)

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