Rosetta spacecraft detects molecular oxygen in gas streaming off comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
The Rosetta spacecraft has discovered molecular oxygen in the gas streaming off comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This is a curious discovery that has left scientists rethinking about the ingredients that were there in the early solar system.
The thing that is baffling astronomers about the latest find is that why the oxygen wasn't annihilated at the time of formation of the solar system. Molecular oxygen is quite reactive with hydrogen, which was swirling in large amounts when the creation of the sun and planets was taking place. Present solar system models have suggested that the molecular oxygen should have disappeared by the time creation of 67P has taken place, about 4.6 billion years ago.
During a media briefing held by the journal Nature, in which the new research was published, Andre Bieler, a research fellow at the University of Michigan who co-led the study, said that the detection of the O2 [oxygen] was a quite big surprise.
The study has suggested that solar system modeling may need revision, but Bieler and co-author Kathrin Altwegg, a space scientist at the University of Bern, said that they could not guess too much on what, exactly, would alter about those models.
Scientists have said they are putting in efforts to detect molecular oxygen in the 1986 Giotto spacecraft observations of Halley's Comet. It was the only other comet that got a close-up visit from a spacecraft. Oxygen’s spectral lines are quite faint to be seen from Earth. This has suggested that even though molecular oxygen could be common in other comets, scientists have no way yet to confirm that theory.
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