Monday, January 26, 2015
Rosetta hints at ‘key to life’ on comet’s core
Scientists have found further evidence that comets harbor the building blocks of life, and have collected the first close-up data that will help them understand how these celestial bodies evolve as they hurtle toward the sun.
The discoveries are the result of months of observation by instruments aboard Europe’s Rosetta space probe, which has been flying alongside comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since August. They are detailed in seven papers published Thursday by the journal Science.
“These papers collect the first results, our first scientific analysis of the comet, and set us up for the next year alongside the comet,” said project scientist Matt Taylor.
One of the most exciting findings is the discovery of a surface covered by complex mixtures of organic materials possibly containing carboxylic acids, which also occur in amino acids essential components for life.
While much of the public attention has been on the fate of of the small lander that successfully touched down on 67P in November but soon fell silent, scientists say the bulk of their data will be collected by Rosetta itself.