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.
ESAs 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. Rosettas 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 UKs 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 worlds 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!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...