Solid Phosphorus has been Found in Comets. This Means They Contain All the Raw Elements for Life

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”

One of the Building Blocks of Life Can Form in the Harsh Environment of Deep Space Itself. No Star Required

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”

Okay, New Idea. Oumuamua is an Interstellar “Dust Bunny”

Explaining the concept of a dust bunny to small children can be quite amusing.  No, it’s not actually alive.  It’s moving around because of really small currents of wind that we can’t even see.  It’s mainly formed out of dead skin and spider webs.   No, the spiders don’t actually eat the dead skin.  Most of the time.

Now take that same concept of a bunch of particles stuck together, scale it up a few orders of magnitude, and put it in space.  Though it’s still not alive, it would be blown by solar radiation rather than the winds.  And instead of being made out of skin and spider webs, it could be made up of cometary dust particles.  That is what scientists think our first detected visitor from another star might be – an interstellar dust bunny.

Continue reading “Okay, New Idea. Oumuamua is an Interstellar “Dust Bunny””

Everyone Took Pictures of Comet NEOWISE, Including Hubble

This summer we were (finally) treated to a spectacular, naked-eye comet, C/2020 F3 NEOWISE. And while seeing it with our own eyes was a joy, it was incredible to see the varied photos of NEOWISE taken by people around the world, showing the comet’s long gossamer tails, filled with detail and color. (See our gallery of images here.)

Now, the Hubble Space Telescope has released a high-resolution image of NEOWISE. However, it might not be the view you may have expected.

Continue reading “Everyone Took Pictures of Comet NEOWISE, Including Hubble”

Parker Solar Probe Gives a Unique Perspective on Comet NEOWISE

Comet watchers have enjoying the newly-discovered NEOWISE comet since it was first spotted in March 2020. Now that it’s visible with the naked eye, in dark sky conditions, all kinds of Earthly observers are checking the visitor out.

But NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has another view of the comet, one denied to Earth-bound observers.

Continue reading “Parker Solar Probe Gives a Unique Perspective on Comet NEOWISE”

Astronomers Finally Think They Understand Where Interstellar Object Oumuamua Came From and How it Formed

‘Oumuamua caused quite a stir when it visited our Solar System in 2017. It didn’t stay long, however, and when it was spotted with the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii on October 19th, it was already leaving. But its appearance in our part of the Universe spawned a lot of conjecture on its nature and its origins.

Continue reading “Astronomers Finally Think They Understand Where Interstellar Object Oumuamua Came From and How it Formed”

When Comets Break Up, the Fragments Can Be Devastating If They Hit the Earth

Comet breakups are a timely topic right now. The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov just broke into at least two pieces. And though that comet is speeding out of the Solar System, never to be seen again, most of them don’t leave the Solar System. Most of them orbit the Sun, and return to the inner Solar System again and again.

A new paper examines the potential hazard to Earth from comets that break into pieces. The author makes the case that comet breakups could have had a hand in shaping the ebb and flow of life on Earth. It could happen again.

Continue reading “When Comets Break Up, the Fragments Can Be Devastating If They Hit the Earth”

Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov Appears to Have Broken in Half

In 2019, amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov discovered a comet, which now bears his name. There’s a long history of amateur astronomers discovering comets, as they approach our inner Solar System on their elongated orbits. But this one was different: it was moving much too fast to be gravitationally bound to the Sun.

It was an interstellar comet. And now, it looks like it has split into two chunks.

Continue reading “Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov Appears to Have Broken in Half”

Rosetta Saw the Building Blocks of Life on Comet 67P

Why is there so little nitrogen in Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P)? That’s a question scientists asked themselves when they looked at the data from the ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. In fact, it’s a question they ask themselves every time they measure the gases in a comet’s coma. When Rosetta visited the comet in 2014, it measured the gases and found that there was very little nitrogen.

In two new papers published in Nature Astronomy, researchers suggest that the nitrogen isn’t really missing at all, it’s just hidden in the building blocks of life.

Continue reading “Rosetta Saw the Building Blocks of Life on Comet 67P”