Rosetta Spacecraft  solves the Comet 67P Dust jet mystery

The Churyumov-Gerasimenko/Comet 67P has been a curious case for researchers around the world. One of the most geologically active bodies of the solar system, comet 67P has been a study subject; all credit to gas and dust jets that can be seen just above the Hapi region of comet 67P just after the sun rises. The Jet-like structures are visible as a big shroud of gas and dust are commonly known as the ‘Coma.’ The mystery seems to be unraveling because of the pictures were taken by the Rosetta Spacecraft. The spacecraft is laden with the OSIRIS camera and the pictures from this camera is shedding light on the structure of the comet as well.

Researchers are of the opinion that the duck shaped, and rugged structure of the comet is responsible for the jets that can be seen on the surface of this comet every morning. According to the researchers, during the sunrise, the surface along terminator becomes instantaneously active. Lead Researcher from Planck Institute for solar research, Dr. Xian Shi believes that the jets of dust and gas are actually very reliable as they can be seen every morning at the exact same location and in the exact same shape. Comets are similar to snowballs made from dust, rock, and frozen gases. When the sun comes close to the orbit, the heat makes these comets spew dust and gases. The case is different with 67P. Though the material of the comet is same as others, the dust and gases are spewed in the form of jets as compared to the homogeneous cloud, which should be the case.

The different images that are made available by the OSIRIS camera of the Rosetta Spacecraft of the Hapi region are provided with a better understanding of the forces responsible for the process. According to researchers one of the most crucial cause for these jets is the topography and the unusual shape of the comet.  The surface of the comet is cold at night, and this is when the frost begins to form, and the same frost starts evaporation instantly when the heat from the sun touches the surface. Some of the regions of the comet are located in the shade at lower altitudes. The sunlight to these places reaches late, and this is why the evaporation process around these regions is less efficient.

The complex shape of the comet had made it almost impossible for the researchers to have a thorough understanding of the process. The ESA’s Rosetta mission finally made it possible to study the phenomenon more closely. Rosetta had started studying the comet from August 2014 which lasted up to September 2016. The mission ended on September 30, after a controlled touchdown of this spacecraft on comet 67p.