Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Primordial Dry Ice Fuels Comet Jets

11.11.2010
Initial science results on comet released from University of Maryland, much more to come UMD scientists say.

One of the biggest comet findings coming out of the amazing images and data taken by the University of Maryland-led EPOXI mission as it zipped past comet Hartley 2 last week is that dry ice is the 'jet' fuel for this comet and perhaps many others.

Images from the flyby show spectacular jets of gas and particles bursting from many distinct spots on the surface of the comet. This is the first time images of a comet have been sharp enough to allow scientists to link jets of dust and gas with specific surface features. Analysis of the spectral signatures of the materials coming from the jets shows primarily CO2 gas (carbon dioxide) and particles of dust and ice.

"Previously it was thought that water vapor from water ice was the propulsive force behind jets of material coming off of the body, or nucleus, of the comet," said University of Maryland Astronomy Professor Jessica Sunshine, who is deputy principal investigator for the EPOXI mission. "We now have unambiguous evidence that solar heating of subsurface frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice), directly to a gas, a process known as sublimation, is powering the many jets of material coming from the comet. This is a finding that only could have been made by traveling to a comet, because ground based telescopes can't detect CO2 and current space telescopes aren't tuned to look for this gas," Sunshine said.

Sunshine and other members of the EPOXI science team are meeting all this week at the University of Maryland to analyze the very large amount of data from the closest approach, and new data continues to come down at a rate of some 2000 images a day.

The Deep Impact spacecraft that flew past comet Hartley 2 has three instruments -- two telescopes with digital color cameras and an infrared spectrometer. The spectrometer measures the absorption, emission and reflection of light (spectroscopic signature) that is unique to each molecular compound. This allows Maryland scientists to determine the composition of the material on the comet's surface, in the jets, and in the coma, or cloud of particles around it. They have found that water and carbon dioxide dominate the infrared spectrum of comet Hartley 2's environment and that organics, including methanol, are present at lower levels.

This is no surprise to scientists. But what is surprising is that there is a lot more carbon dioxide escaping this comet than expected. "The distribution of carbon dioxide and dust around the nucleus is much different than the water distribution, and that tells us that the carbon dioxide rather than water takes dust grains with it into the coma as it leaves the nucleus, said Assistant Research Scientist Lori Feaga. "The dry ice that is producing the CO2 jets on this comet has probably been frozen inside it since the formation of the solar system."

According to University of Maryland Research Scientist Tony Farnham, findings from the team's 2005 Deep Impact mission to comet Tempel 1, though less conclusive, nonetheless indicate that the Hartley 2 findings that super-volatiles (CO2) and not water drive the activity, probably are a common characteristic of comets. "Tempel 1 was most active before perihelion when its southern hemisphere, the hemisphere that appeared to be enhanced in CO2, was exposed to sunlight," said Farnham, a member of both the Deep Impact and EPOXI science teams. "Unlike our Hartley encounter, during the flyby with Tempel 1, we were unable to directly trace the CO2 to the surface, because the pole was in darkness during encounter."

The Maryland scientists devised the plan to reuse the Deep Impact spacecraft and travel to a second comet in order to learn more about the diversity of comets and the processes that govern them. This became the EPOXI mission on which the spacecraft has flown to comet Hartley 2.

The spacecraft's images show that Hartley 2 has an elongated nucleus, 2 kilometers in length and 0.4 kilometers wide at the narrow neck. Hartley 2 is only the 5th cometary nucleus ever seen and exhibits similarities and differences to the bodies or nuclei of other comets. Mission Principal Investigator and science team leader Michael A'Hearn, a University of Maryland professor of astronomy, said the mission has provided, and continues to provide, a tremendous wealth of data about Hartley 2 and the team expects to announce more science findings in the coming weeks.

Lee Tune | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umd.edu

Further reports about: CO2 COMET Deep Impact spacecraft EPOXI Jets Maryland carbon dioxide crystalline dry ice fuels

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Structured light and nanomaterials open new ways to tailor light at the nanoscale
23.04.2018 | Academy of Finland

nachricht On the shape of the 'petal' for the dissipation curve
23.04.2018 | Lobachevsky University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Complete skin regeneration system of fish unraveled

24.04.2018 | Life Sciences

Scientists create innovative new 'green' concrete using graphene

24.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

24.04.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>