According to a new study, the planet Mercury experiences regular meteor showers at roughly the same time each year, as it moves through a trail of dust thrown off by the ancient comet Encke. The work was presented at the annual Meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society at National Harbor, Maryland.
Despite being the third most abundant element in the Universe, molecular oxygen, or O₂, is relatively rare off Earth. That's why it raised a few eyebrows at ESA when the space agency's Rosetta spacecraft discovered oxygen molecules jetting out of the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. According to the Rosetta team, the oxygen is outgassing in such abundance that its presence may date back to the formation of the comet over 4.6 billion years ago.
Astronomers have discovered large quantities of alcohol and sugar, as well as the presence of complex organic molocules, on the comet Lovejoy. The observations, made by the 30 meter (98 ft) radio telescope at Pico Veleta, Spain, support the theory that comets may have played an important role in the formation of life on Earth.
Earth isn't the only place with seasons. Other planets and even very small celestial bodies can have them, too, as ESA's Rosetta probe has shown in its explorations of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. When the unmanned spacecraft went into orbit about the comet, it revealed that the southern hemisphere of the dumbbell-shaped nucleus is shrouded in a dark winter that lasts over five years and, according to data collected by the Rosettas's onboard spectrometer, hides ice in larger amounts than the rest of the comet.
On August 13, comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and ESA’s unmanned Rosetta probe made their closest approach to the Sun. Both are now heading for the outer Solar System, but Rosetta still has secrets to reveal. One is that the comet has a daily water cycle that, according to the space agency, keeps it "alive."
As demonstrated by the bumpy landing of ESA's Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, exploring comets, asteroids, and small moons can be difficult due to their low gravity. Not only can landing on one be like trying to alight on a trampoline, but roving around their surfaces is next to impossible because the negligible gravity offers practically no traction. To overcome this, a team of engineers is developing Hedgehog, a completely symmetrical robot rover for low-gravity exploration that moves by hopping.
On Thursday at 02:03 GMT, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta orbiter reached their closest point (known as perihelion) to the Sun, coming within 186 million km (115 million mi) of our parent star. The event was marked by an increase in activity on the comet, which is expected to continue over the next few weeks as it now heads toward the outer Solar System.
Rosetta has detected a powerful jet of activity emitted from the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P). The force of the outburst, which is believed to be travelling at 10 m per sec (32 ft per sec), was strong enough to temporarily repel the solar wind – a constant stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun, that work to convey our star's magnetic field across the solar system.
New ESA images allow the public to take an in-depth tour of the Imhotep region of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P). Located close to the comet's equator, Imhotep is thought to be one of the most geologically diverse regions of 67P, with observations of the area contributing greatly to our understanding of the wandering celestial bodies.
ESA’s Philae comet lander has once again gone silent. According to the space agency, the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on a comet lost radio contact with the Rosetta orbiter mothership on July 9. Despite this setback, engineers are still transmitting commands to the unmanned probe in the hope of reestablishing communications and getting it to continue observations.