Scientists in charge of the Rosetta mission have reported they have found OXYGEN in the atmosphere of comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko and are calling it one of the most incredible discoveries so far. This finding questions all previous models of solar system formation and can affect the way we search for life elsewhere in the universe.
The European space probe detected oxygen for the first time in September 2014 shortly after entering into orbit around comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko but it has taken over a year for scientists to disclose the finding since they wanted to make sure they ruled out possible errors before announcing a discovery of this magnitude.
“The first time we saw it, we all went a little bit into denial because molecular oxygen was really not expected to be found on a comet,” said Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern in Switzerland, the project leader for ROSINA, the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis.
“It does not sound that spectacular, but it is actually the most surprising discovery we have made so far on 67P,” she said of the comet, which is about to pass the orbit of Mars.
The group of researchers who worked together with scientists from the University Of Michigan (USA), studied the comet and found that the oxygen concentration remains constant over time. Molecular oxygen is common on our planet but extreme rare elsewhere in the universe, as matter of fact, they have only detected molecular oxygen outside of our solar system on two occasion, but never on a comet. Even though on Earth, plants and microbes are responsible for the creation of oxygen, this does not mean that Comet 67P has life on it. However this finding is revolutionary since it breaks a lot of boundaries set by scientists in the distant past and will surely change the way experts look for life in our solar system and universe in general.
Researchers believe that oxygen is present on all parts of comet 67/P and not only on its surface. This is why experts believe that oxygen must have been present on the comet since its creation, that is some 4,600 million years ago, before the solar system formed completely. According to writing in the journal Nature, the oxygen was incorporated into the comet nucleus when the comet was created and has remained ever since.
Professor Kathrin Altwegg, project leader for Rosetta’s Rosina mass spectrometer instrument, said: ‘We had never thought that oxygen could ‘survive’ for billions of years without combining with other substances.’ ‘This evidence of oxygen as an ancient substance will likely discredit some theoretical models of the formation of the Solar System.’
Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been full of surprises ever since the rosetta mission approached the comet and the Phiale lander made the historic touchdown on the surface of the comet. The strange shape of the comet is what has puzzled researchers ever since they received the first closeup images of the comet. Among other things, researchers have found that Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko sings, has oxygen and some of his areas resemble the pyramids of the Giza plateau.