European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta probe mission has detected peculiar mix of molecular nitrogen on the Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, offering crucial clues to the conditions that led to the birth of the solar system.
The study was led by Martin Rubin, a scientist at the space research and planetary sciences division of Switzerland’s University of Bern.
According to the scientists, molecular nitrogen has played a very crucial role in the formation of the young solar system.
The scientists at the European Space Agency said that the detection of molecular nitrogen suggests that Comet 67P was formed under low-temperature conditions, which is required to keep nitrogen in the form of ice).
The astronomers explain as nitrogen is also available on planets and moons in the outer solar system, the latest discovery made by Rosetta clearly implies that the family of comets of 67P has also formed in the same region.
“Its detection is particularly important since molecular nitrogen is thought to have been the most common type of nitrogen available when the solar system was forming. In the colder outer regions, it likely provided the main source of nitrogen that was incorporated into the gas planets. It also dominates the dense atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan and is present in the atmospheres and surface ices on Pluto and on Neptune’s moon Triton,” the ESA officials wrote in an issued statement.
The Rosetta spacecraft used the ROSINA instrument (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) last year between October 17 and October 23 for detecting the presence of molecular nitrogen on the comet. At that time, the Rosetta spacecraft was orbiting only 6.2 miles (or 10 kilometers) from the center of Comet 67P.
The more surprising thing for the scientists was the ratio of molecular nitrogen to carbon monoxide present in the comet. According to them, the ratio was 25 times less than the expectations derived from the models of the early solar system.
Scientists explain the unexpectedly low ratio is caused from the manner in which the formation of ice took place at extremely low temperatures.
The findings were detailed in the journal Science.