NASA’s newest discovery about comets could be one that allows humans to get closer to comets, to study them. Information recently released stated that the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft collected data with a NASA Alice instrument that was on board, that showed that comets held details that were not what scientists had previously thought. Before scientists and NASA thought that comets held photons from the Sun, but now they realize that comets actually have an outer layer of electrons, not photons. These electrons apparently break up the carbon dioxide and water elements that spew from the comets outer surface. Before scientists did not get close to the comets, supposedly because they deemed it unnecessary as they thought knew about comets, but now with the data collected by the NASA instrument, scientists are stating that it is imperative that humans get closer to comets in order to possibly make new discoveries and transform the knowledge of comets.
The research found by NASA and observed by principal investigator, Alan Stern, will be published in the Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The information has been reported as being “quite unexpected.” Stern said that the information proved the value of observing comets up close. This will provide scientists and astronauts with information that they just could not receive from far away. Though much of the information that NASA and other scientists have collected about comets is probably still true, this information shows that some things may not be completely accurate. However, until scientists get up close to comets, in order to observe their properties, none of the information will ever be known for certain.
In the most recent discovery made by NASA it was not humans, though, that observe the comet up close, but rather the new discovery was made by the instrument which specializes in taking information, even from a distance. Often called the comet chaser, the Alice spectrograph, which was aboard the Rosetta, is a tool that scientists use to split light into various colors, which allows them to observe a chemical composition of gases by observing the light spectrum. Alice examined the light of the comet to learn about its atmosphere.
If humans could get closer to comets, in order to make new discoveries about them, then it could possibly give NASA more information about the universe and all things in it. Of course, for most humans simply watching one of these marvelous universe-made objects fly across the sky, is as close as they care to be to a comet. However, for scientists being able to get closer to comets is intriguing, as observing new properties about them could spark ideas for ways to get closer to other things and observe them. Though NASA has already created ways to get closer to planets, such as sending unmanned craft to explore Mars, being able to learn all there is to know about comets, could mean that asteroids, stars, and other things are next. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) was able to collect much data from Mars. Rosetta was able to get within 100 miles of comet 67P.
Though comets are not the universe’s most mysterious object, as scientists know much about them already, being able to get closer to them would allow NASA and humans to make new discoveries about them. If scientists are able to learn more about one part of the universe, history has proven that it is only a matter of time before those new discoveries lead to discoveries of a completely different type. Every comet, every planet, and every star discovered give scientists more information about the universe as a whole. Though this discovery is a small one, it is one that is significant to many scientists, and may one day prove to be a significant lead into a great discovery.
Opinion by Crystal Boulware
Planetary News: NASA Instrument on Rosetta Makes Comet Atmosphere Discovery
Photo Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD Wikimedia Page – Public Domain License
Note: The comet pictured above is not of comet 67P