This composite is a mosaic comprising four individual NAVCAM images taken from 19 miles (31 kilometers) from the center of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 20, 2014. The image resolution is 10 feet (3 meters) per pixel.
The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has found the water vapor from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to be significantly different from that found on Earth. The discovery fuels the debate on the origin of our planet's oceans.
The measurements, by the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument, were made in the month following the arrival of the spacecraft on August 6. It is one of the most anticipated early results of the mission, because the origin of Earth's water is still an open question.
Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when the sun and its planets formed. Rosetta's lander obtained the first images taken from a comet's surface and will provide analysis of the comet's possible primordial composition. Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to witness at close proximity how a comet changes as it is subjected to the increasing intensity of the sun's radiation. Observations will help scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in seeding Earth with water, and perhaps even life.
Image and top paragraph text credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM; bottom three paragraph text credit: NASA/JPL
Note: For more information, see:
* First Measurements of Comet’s Water Ratio
* Rosetta Instrument Reignites Debate on Earth's Oceans
* Rosetta Fuels Debate on Origin of Earth's Oceans
* Rosetta Reignites Debate on Earth's Oceans