Whenever I wipe the dust off my coffee table or catch a glimpse of dust motes floating in sunlight, my spacey mind always wonders, is any of that cosmic dust?
It just might be. But the amount of space dust that lands on our planet every year might surprise you.
Continue reading “Earth Gains 5,200 Tons of Dust From Space Every Year”
Just when do comets get their signature coma? Conventional wisdom says it only happens when they get close enough to the sun, but new research suggests it starts when they are still beyond the orbit of the planets.
Continue reading “Comets Already Grow a Coma out in the Kuiper Belt”
Jupiter is notorious for capturing objects that venture too close to the gas giant and its enormous pull of gravity. Asteroids known as Jupiter Trojans are a large group of space rocks that have been snared by the planet, which usually remain in a stable orbit near one of the Jupiter’s Lagrangian points.
But now, the Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a comet near Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid population. This is the first time a comet has been found in this region, and the team of scientists studying the object – named P/2019 LD2 (LD2) – think the unexpected comet is only a temporary visitor.
Continue reading “Jupiter has Added a Comet to its Trojan Collection”
About 66 million years ago a massive chunk of rock slammed into Earth in what is the modern-day Yucatan Peninsula. The impact extinguished about 75% of all life on Earth. Most famously, it was the event that wiped out the dinosaurs.
While mainstream scientific thought has pointed to an asteroid as the impactor, a new research letter says it could’ve, in fact, been a comet.
Continue reading “Did a Comet Wipe out the Dinosaurs?”
Rome was the world’s first mega-empire. At its height it stretched from Western Europe to the Middle East, and over 50 million souls lived within its borders. Some historians think that number could’ve been way higher, up to 100 million.
Rome got its start in the mid-8th century BC. It took centuries for that small city to grow into the Roman Empire, which reached its peak around AD 100. A well-known cliche reminds us how long that took.
But the Roman Empire also took centuries to fracture and dissolve.
Continue reading “Comet Records From 1240 Accurately Date When a Byzantine Princess Died”
Did comets deliver the elements essential for life on Earth? It’s looking more and more like they could have. At least one comet might have, anyway: 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
A new study using data from the ESA’s Rosetta mission shows that the comet contains the life-critical element phosphorous.
Continue reading “Solid Phosphorus has been Found in Comets. This Means They Contain All the Raw Elements for Life”
In many ways, stars are the engines of creation. Their energy drives a whole host of processes necessary for life. Scientists thought that stellar radiation is needed to create compounds like the amino acid glycine, one of the building blocks of life.
But a new study has found that glycine detected in comets formed in deep interstellar space when there was no stellar energy.
Continue reading “One of the Building Blocks of Life Can Form in the Harsh Environment of Deep Space Itself. No Star Required”
The ESA’s Rosetta mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko ended four years ago. On September 30th 2016 the spacecraft was directed into a controlled impact with the comet, putting an end to its 12.5 year mission. Scientists are still working with all its data and making new discoveries.
A new study based on Rosetta data shows that Comet 67P has its own aurora.
Continue reading “Even Comets Can Have Auroras. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko Does”
In August 2014, the ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, after a 10 year journey. Rosetta carried a small companion, the Philae Lander. On November 12th, Philae was sent to the surface of Comet 67P. Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and the lander’s mission lasted only 63 hours.
During that time, it gathered what data it could. But mission scientists weren’t certain of its precise location, meaning its data was difficult to interpret accurately. Only when scientists knew precisely where Philae was located on the comet, could they make best use of all of its data.
Continue reading “Rosetta’s Philae Lander Was Alive on the Surface of 67P for 63 Hours, Trying to Communicate”
Earlier this week, we shared an image of Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. And now, here are a group of images from the 8.1-metre Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. Like Hubble, Gemini North focused in on the comet’s nucleus and coma, instead of its stunning, gossamer tails. But Gemini zoomed in and caught something Hubble didn’t: Comet NEOWISE was rotating, which created a spiraling stream of molecular gas.
Continue reading “Comet NEOWISE Was Spiraling and Spinning as it Passed by Earth”