PARIS, Oct. 29 — Rosetta spacecraft has detected oxygen molecules outgassing from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, European Space Agency (ESA) announced Wednesday on its website.
This detection "suggests they (oxygen molecules) were incorporated into the comet during its formation," explained ESA, given that the simplest molecular version of the oxygen, O2, is "highly reactive and readily breaks apart to bind with other atoms and molecules."
Although oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe, "we weren't really expecting to detect O2 from the comet, and in such high abundance, because it is so chemically reactive, it was quite a surprise," says Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern, and principal investigator of the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis instrument, ROSINA.
Scientists have analyzed more than 3,000 samples collected around the comet between September 2014 and March 2015 to identify the O2, before coming to the conclusion that the oxygen molecules "must have been incorporated into the comet during its formation."
"This is not so easily explained by current Solar System formation models," added Altwegg.
According to ESA, this is the first time that oxygen molecules are found from a comet. (PNA/Xinhua)