Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rosetta takes comet’s temperature

Date:
August 1, 2014
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has made its first temperature measurements of its target comet, finding that it is too hot to be covered in ice and must instead have a dark, dusty crust.

The first temperature measurements of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko were made between 13 and 21 July, when Rosetta closed in from 14 000 km to the comet to just over 5000 km. The observations were made by the spacecraft’s visible, infrared and thermal imaging spectrometer, VIRTIS, and revealed an average surface temperature of –70ēC. This implies the surface is predominantly covered in dust rather than ice, which would yield a lower temperature. The finding does not exclude localised patches of ice. The observations were made when the comet was roughly 555 million kilometres from the Sun.
Credit: ESA

ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has made its first temperature measurements of its target comet, finding that it is too hot to be covered in ice and must instead have a dark, dusty crust.

Related Articles


The observations of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko were made by Rosetta's visible, infrared and thermal imaging spectrometer, VIRTIS, between 13 and 21 July, when Rosetta closed in from 14,000 km to the comet to just over 5000 km.

At these distances, the comet covered only a few pixels in the field of view and so it was not possible to determine the temperatures of individual features. But, using the sensor to collect infrared light emitted by the whole comet, scientists determined that its average surface temperature is about -70ēC.

The comet was roughly 555 million kilometres from the Sun at the time -- more than three times further away than Earth, meaning that sunlight is only about a tenth as bright.

Although -70ēC may seem rather cold, importantly, it is some 20-30ēC warmer than predicted for a comet at that distance covered exclusively in ice.

"This result is very interesting, since it gives us the first clues on the composition and physical properties of the comet's surface," says VIRTIS principal investigator Fabrizio Capaccioni from INAF-IAPS, Rome, Italy.

Indeed, other comets such as 1P/Halley are known to have very dark surfaces owing to a covering of dust, and Rosetta's comet was already known to have a low reflectance from ground-based observations, excluding an entirely 'clean' icy surface.

The temperature measurements provide direct confirmation that much of the surface must be dusty, because darker material heats up and emits heat more readily than ice when it is exposed to sunlight.

"This doesn't exclude the presence of patches of relatively clean ice, however, and very soon, VIRTIS will be able to start generating maps showing the temperature of individual features," adds Dr Capaccioni.

In addition to global measurements, the sensor will study the variation of the daily surface temperature of specific areas of the comet, in order to understand how quickly the surface reacts to solar illumination.

In turn, this will provide insight into the thermal conductivity, density and porosity of the top tens of centimetres of the surface. This information will be important in selecting a target site for Rosetta's lander, Philae.

It will also measure the changes in temperature as the comet flies closer to the Sun along its orbit, providing substantially more heating of the surface.

"Combined with observations from the other 10 science experiments on Rosetta and those on the lander, VIRTIS will provide a thorough description of the surface physical properties and the gases in the comet's coma, watching as conditions change on a daily basis and as the comet loops around the Sun over the course of the next year," says Matt Taylor, ESA's Rosetta project scientist.

"With only a few days until we arrive at just 100 km distance from the comet, we are excited to start analysing this fascinating little world in more and more detail."

More about Rosetta

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI. Rosetta will be the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the Sun, and deploy a lander.

Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when the Sun and its planets formed. By studying the gas, dust and structure of the nucleus and organic materials associated with the comet, via both remote and in-situ observations, the Rosetta mission should become the key to unlocking the history and evolution of our Solar System, as well as answering questions regarding the origin of Earth's water and perhaps even life.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Rosetta takes comet’s temperature." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140801111111.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2014, August 1). Rosetta takes comet’s temperature. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140801111111.htm
European Space Agency. "Rosetta takes comet’s temperature." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140801111111.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) — Scientists working with NASA&apos;s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California discovered an unexpected moon while observing asteroid 2004 BL86 during its recent flyby past Earth. Credit to &apos;NASA JPL&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) — Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) — Eleven years ago NASA&apos;s Opportunity rover touched down on Mars for what was only supposed to be a 90-day mission. Since then it has traveled 25.9 miles (41.7 kilometers), further than any other off-Earth surface vehicle has ever driven. Credit to &apos;NASA&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's On Course To Take Pluto's Best Photo Ever

NASA's On Course To Take Pluto's Best Photo Ever

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) — NASA&apos;s New Horizons probe is en route to snap a picture of Pluto this summer, but making sure it doesn&apos;t miss its one chance to do so starts now. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins