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


Professor Combi part of team that found water ice on Comet 67P

Posted: January 14, 2016

Professor Combi part of team that found water ice on Comet 67P Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team

The European Space Agency's Rosetta team recently confirmed the presence of water ice on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Professor Michael Combi contributed to the findings, which were published in Nature. According to the abstract, there has been limited evidence so far for exposed water-ice regions on the surface of the nucleus.

“The surface of comet 67P, like most comets, is primarily covered by dark organic materials that appear almost black,” a Los Angeles Times article states. “That's because as comets fly toward the sun, they are exposed to warm temperatures that cause volatiles like water ice on their surface to sublimate -- or go directly from solid to gas.”

Combi spoke with the Times. “What remains on the crust are what are known as refractory materials. These include silicates similar to rocks, sand and dirt on Earth and carbonaceous materials. Because these materials do not sublimate, the comet's surface becomes increasingly organic and silicate rich over time, said Michael Combi.”

To read the full Los Angeles Times article, please visit This news was also reported in Astronomy magazine and Discovery news.

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