Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cooking on a comet...?

20.08.2004


One of the ingenious instruments on board Rosetta is designed to ’smell’ the comet for different substances, analysing samples that have been ’cooked’ in a set of miniature ovens.



ESA’s Rosetta will be the first space mission ever to land on a comet. After its lander reaches Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the main spacecraft will follow the comet for many months as it heads towards the Sun. Rosetta’s task is to study comets, which are considered the primitive building blocks of the Solar System. This will help us to understand if life on Earth began with the help of ’comet seeding’.

The Ptolemy instrument is an ’Evolved Gas Analyser’, the first example of a new concept in space instruments, devised to tackle the challenge of analysing substances ’on location’ on bodies in our Solar System.


Weighing just 4.5 kilograms and about the size of a shoe box, it was produced by a collaboration of the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Open University.

The analysis of these samples from the surface of the comet will establish what the cometary nucleus is made from, providing valuable information about these most primitive objects.

After the lander touches down on the comet, the Ptolemy instrument will collect comet nucleus material, believed to be a frozen mixture of ices, dust and tar, using the Sampling, Drilling and Distribution system (SD2) supplied by Tecnospazio Milano of Italy. SD2 will drill for small cores of ice and dust from depths of down to 250 millimetres.

Samples collected in this way will be delivered to one of four tiny ’ovens’ dedicated to Ptolemy, which are mounted on a circular, rotatable carousel. The German-supplied carousel has 32 of these ovens, with the remainder being used by other Rosetta instruments.

Of the four Ptolemy ovens, three are for solid samples collected and delivered by SD2 while the fourth will be used to collect volatile materials from the near-surface cometary atmosphere. By heating the solid samples to 800 °C, the oven converts them into gases which then pass along a pipe into Ptolemy. The gas will then be separated into its constituent chemical species using a gas chromatograph.

Ptolemy can then determine which chemicals are present in the comet sample, and hence help to build up a detailed picture of what the comet is made from.

It does this using the world’s smallest ’ion-trap mass spectrometer’, a small, low-power device built with the latest miniature technology. This device will find out what gases are present in any particular sample and measure stable isotope ratios.

Roberto Lo Verde | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esa.int

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 >>>