Rosetta spaceship unveiled a massive crack on a comet which was captured constantly being re-shaped. The European craft has traced the evolution of this crack on the surface of the comet, documented the changes while orbiting around it for two years. Astronomers presented more details about these findings at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC).
- Rosetta spaceship orbited around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for two years.
- During this time, the craft used its advanced camera to capture high-resolution photos.
- Thus, it managed to trace the evolution of the erosion process happening at the surface of the comet.
Rosetta entered the orbit of this comet in September 2014. The purpose of the spaceship was to give the comet a full name, calling it Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This space mission helped scientists gather numerous images displaying the surface features of the comet and how they changed over time. Mohamed El-Maarry, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, claimed that this is the first time when astronomers got access to such a massive dataset of pictures.
Nevertheless, they still have a long mission ahead to accomplish because they need to analyze the captures and established how the features of the surface altered in time as the comet traveled through the Solar System for two years. Cooling and heating processes which repeatedly affected the comet could have teased apart the materials at its surface, determining erosion.
Dr. El-Maarry and his colleagues have analyzed the captures and established that there occurred some cliff collapses at two different regions known as Seth and Ash. These downfalls appeared due to the existence of some fractures which were responsible for causing sections of material to crumble. In the Khonsu region of the comet, a huge rock was seen moving in a distance of 140m.
This movement could have been triggered by the sloped surface erosion on which the boulder was located, determining it to roll. Nevertheless, scientists also think at the possibility that the massive rock could have been moved by a burst of gas and dust from within the celestial object. At another location of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko known as Anubis region, a very steep slope started retreating at a rate of 5.4m every day.
Astronomers suggested that most changes happened around perihelion when the comet was at the point closest to the sun. Thus, scientists inferred that the shifting patterns of sunlight exposure contributed to these changes.
Image source: wikipedia