(ORDO NEWS) — US scientists have explained the 67P anomaly as two oxygen reservoirs below the surface.
Paleologists at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (USA) have proposed a new explanation for the mystery of the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P), which emits an abnormally large amount of oxygen. This is reported in an article published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Although molecular oxygen is common on Earth, in space it occurs in small amounts within molecular clouds. Scientists hypothesized that the oxygen contained in the protoplanetary nebula that gave rise to the solar system was quickly consumed, bonding with other atoms and molecules, including hydrogen and carbon.
However, astronomers have discovered that comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko is emitting oxygen in unusually large quantities. This has led many researchers to speculate that oxygen was originally bound to water at the birth of the solar system, or formed from the decomposition of water after the comet arose.
In the new study, the scientists determined how oxygen emissions depended on the comet’s rotation. When the southern hemisphere of the comet turned away from the Sun, the connection between the oxygen emissions and water disappeared, as the amount of water leaving the celestial body fell sharply.
Oxygen itself was found to be closely associated with carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions, which refutes previously proposed hypotheses. The researchers hypothesized that the comet’s oxygen is not formed from water, but comes from two reservoirs above the surface.
One is made up of oxygen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide deep inside the comet’s rocky core. The second, smaller pocket is located closer to the surface. The first reservoir constantly releases gases, however, part of the oxygen chemically binds to the water ice.
Oxygen can build up in a shallow reservoir for long periods of time until the comet’s surface warms up enough that the water ice evaporates, releasing an oxygen-rich plume. At the same time, the concentration of oxygen in it is much higher than in the bowels of a comet.
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