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A trip past Sun likely to have selectively altered production of one form of water in a Comet known as Lovejoy

NASA scientists observed the Oort cloud comet C/2014 Q2, also called Lovejoy, when it passed near Earth in early 2015

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Comet Lovejoy, Wikimedia
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Washington, March 1, 2017: A trip past the sun may have selectively altered the production of one form of water in a comet known as Lovejoy — an effect not seen by astronomers before, a new NASA study suggests.

The findings could shed new light on how much comets might have contributed to Earth’s water compared to asteroids.

“Comets can be quite active and sometimes quite dynamic, especially when they are in the inner solar system, closer to the sun,” said co-author of the study Michael Mumma, Director of NASA’s Goddard Center for Astrobiology.

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NASA scientists observed the Oort cloud comet C/2014 Q2, also called Lovejoy, when it passed near Earth in early 2015.

Through NASA’s partnership in the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, the team observed the comet at infrared wavelengths a few days after Lovejoy passed its perihelion – or closest point to the sun.

The team focused on Lovejoy’s water, simultaneously measuring the release of H2O along with production of a heavier form of water, HDO.

Water molecules consist of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. A hydrogen atom has one proton, but when it also includes a neutron, that heavier hydrogen isotope is called deuterium, or the “D” in HDO.

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From these measurements, the researchers calculated the D-to-H ratio — a chemical fingerprint that provides clues about exactly where comets (or asteroids) formed within the cloud of material that surrounded the young sun in the early days of the solar system.

Researchers also use the D-to-H value to try to understand how much of Earth’s water may have come from comets versus asteroids.

The scientists compared their findings from the Keck observations with another team’s observations made before the comet reached perihelion, using both space- and ground-based telescopes, and found an unexpected difference.

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After perihelion, the output of HDO was two to three times higher, while the output of H2O remained essentially constant, showed the findings published online in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This meant that the D-to-H ratio was two to three times higher than the values reported earlier.

“If the D-to-H value changes with time, it would be misleading to assume that comets contributed only a small fraction of Earth’s water compared to asteroids,” lead author of the study Lucas Paganini, a researcher with the Goddard Center for Astrobiology, said. (IANS)

 

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Soyuz Rocket’s Crew Say That They Trust The Rocket ,Post Previous Failure

Russian investigators said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly.

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Russian Rocket, Soyuz
From left: CSA astronaut David Saint Jacques, Russian cosmonaut Оleg Kononenko‎ and U.S. astronaut Anne McClain pose in a mock-up of a Soyuz space craft at Russian Space Training Center in Star City, Russia. VOA

A U.S. astronaut said on Thursday she had full confidence in the safety of the Russian-made Soyuz rocket that will blast a three-person crew into space next month in the first such launch since a rocket failure.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and U.S. and Canadian astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are due to embark for the International Space Station on Dec. 3 after a similar launch on Oct. 11 ended in an emergency landing.

Russian Rocket, Soyuz
Head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin addresses the media upon the arrival of Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague at Baikonur airport, Kazakhstan. VOA

Two minutes into that launch, a rocket failure forced Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague to abort their mission and hurtle back to Earth in a capsule that landed in the Kazakh steppe. The two were unharmed.

Speaking at a news conference in Star City near Moscow, McClain said that occasional failures were inevitable, but that the mishap with the Soyuz-FG in October had demonstrated the reliability of its emergency safety mechanisms.

“We trust our rocket. We’re ready to fly,” she said at the conference also attended by her colleagues Kononenko and Saint-Jacques.

Russian Rocket, Soyuz
A view shows the Soyuz capsule that carried U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin, after it made an emergency landing, near the city of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan. VOA

“A lot of people called it an accident, or an incident, or maybe want to use it as an example of it not being safe, but for us it’s exactly the opposite because our friends came home,” McClain told reporters.

Also Read: A Successful Emergency Landing For US-Russian Space Rocket

Russian investigators said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Soviet era-cosmodrome at Baikonur from where McClain, Saint Jacques and Kononenko are due to launch.

Ahead of their mission, an unmanned rocket carrying cargo is due to launch on Nov 16. in what will be the first Soyuz-FG take-off from Baikonur since the mishap. (VOA)