Why is Rosetta’s comet spewing jets of water?
- Jets of water vapour have been spotted in images of Rosetta’s comet target
- The material is being shot into space, but it’s unclear why it appears as ‘jets’
- Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society spotted the jets in photos from the Rosetta spacecraft
- As the comet approaches the sun it will become more active
- Ice remaining on the surface will melt, surrounding the comet in gas
- For this reason engineers want to perform the planned landing of the Philae lander on the comet as soon as possible before too much vapour is present
- This could be hazardous to any landing attempt – although the vapour will be of key scientific interest to Rosetta throughout its mission
- Esa’s Rosetta spacecraft entered orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August and is now slowly lowering itself closer to the comet
The jets of water vapour were revealed by Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society.
By increasing the contrast on available shots of the comet, she revealed previously hidden jets of water vapour spewing outwards.
And scientists will be hoping to study these jets in more detail as the comet approaches the sun, and possibly work out exactly how they form and what they’re made of.
‘The challenge with Rosetta’s images of the comet is that until quite recently, most of them were taken with the sun nearly behind the spacecraft,’ Ms Lakdawalla told MailOnline.