Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has far more complex organic molecules than scientists expected, some of which had never been seen around the comet until now.
because comet Complex molecules thought to be responsible for seeding Earth essential for carbon-based life Earththe findings could have implications for how life on our planet began.
The team, including scientists from the University of Bern in Switzerland, used Rosetta spacecraft And analyzed with its mass spectrometer ROSINA between 2014 and 2016. Rosetta and its Philae lander on comet arrived at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or Chury as scientists call it) in 2014 Rosetta ends its mission Deliberately crashed into a comet two years later.
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From this data, the researchers identified a complex array of organic molecules on a comet for the first time, revealing what the team calls the comet’s “organic budget.” The research also expands on the types of molecules that comets might deliver.
“The results show that, on average, the Churi’s budget for complex organics is the same as the soluble fraction of the organics in meteorites,” Nora Hanney, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Space Research and Planetary Sciences at the University of Bern, said in an article. statement (opens in new tab). “Thus, impacting comets – as important suppliers of organic materials – also appear to have contributed to the emergence of carbon-based life on Earth.”
Chury’s molecular budget is similar to Organic matter lands on Saturn Innermost ring detected by NASA’s mass spectrometer Cassini spacecraftHänni added.
As the comet approaches sun When the ice in it begins to melt and erupt from its surface.
A comet becomes active when the curry reaches the closest point in its orbit to our star. The ice sealed inside the comet is instantly converted from a solid to a gas — a process called sublimation — and released from the surface in an outflow. This jet of gas drags dust molecules away from the surface.
These particles are then heated by solar radiation to much higher temperatures than the particles experience on the comet’s surface. This means that larger molecules are released or “desorbed” from the dust, making them available for detection and analysis of ROSINA.
what comet churi smells like
Rosina’s analysis revealed types of chemicals made up of many atoms, including complex organic molecules and molecules never found in any comet before, previously hidden in the comet’s dust.
These include traces of some of the compounds on Earth that contribute to the familiar scent.
“For example, we found naphthalene, which is responsible for the characteristic smell of moth balls,” Hänni said. “We also discovered benzoic acid, which is a natural component of incense,” says Hänni. “In addition, we discovered benzaldehyde, which is widely used to impart almond flavor to food, as well as many other molecules.
“These heavy organics obviously make Chury’s scent more complex, but also more appealing.”
Some other molecules, like formamide, have so-called prebiotic functions, which means they help synthesize biomolecules such as amino acids and sugars.
The team put Chury’s organic budget into a broader context solar system even disintegrate to form new clouds of gas and dust Star and planetary systems. This further supports what scientists have suspected for some time about Comets Churi: They are the potential “fossil record” of the material that formed the planets of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
“Not only did we find similarities in the organic reservoirs of the solar system, but many of the organic molecules in the Churi are also present in molecular clouds, the birthplaces of new stars,” said astrophysicist Susanne Wampfler of the U.S. Center for Space and Habitability. The University of Bern said in a statement. “Our findings are consistent with and support the scenario of a common pre-solar origin of distinct reservoirs of organic matter in the solar system, confirming that comets indeed carry material long before our solar system emerged.”
The team’s research was published in the journal in June nature (opens in new tab).
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