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Rosetta Comet Water Different Than Earth Water

Fuels Debate About Origins Of Earth's Oceans

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 Aug. 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.

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the U.S. contribution of the Rosetta mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL also built the MIRO instrument and hosts its principal investigator, Samuel Gulkis. The Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio and Boulder) developed the Rosetta orbiter's IES and Alice instruments, and hosts their principal investigators, James Burch (IES) and Alan Stern (Alice).

(Image provided by NASA)

FMI: http://rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov, www.esa.int/rosetta

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