Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Cooking on a comet...?


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:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

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: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>