Google+ SpaceTravelFoundation: Comet 67P/ Tchourioumov-Guérassimenko smells terrible

October 27, 2014

Comet 67P/ Tchourioumov-Guérassimenko smells terrible

Dear readers and followers,


the European spacecraft, Rosetta is orbiting the distant comet 67P Churyumov Gerasimenko and revealed funny conclusions. It seems that the comet smells terrible. Since early August, the Rosetta Orbiter Sensor for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) has been ‘sniffing the fumes’ of 67P/C-G with its two mass spectrometers.
Actually, "It stinks" said Kathrin Altwegg, a researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland who runs an instrument called ROSINA that picked up the odor.


Credit image : +European Space Agency, ESA 


The European space agency has realeased the constitution of the analyse: The mix includes ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulphide (H2S), formaldehyde (CH2O) and methanol (CH3OH). As the Kathrin Altwegg, principal investigator for ROSINA, put it: “The perfume of 67P/C-G is quite strong, with the odour of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulphide), horse stable (ammonia), and the pungent, suffocating odour of formaldehyde. This is mixed with the faint, bitter, almond-like aroma of hydrogen cyanide. Add some whiff of alcohol (methanol) to this mixture, paired with the vinegar-like aroma of sulphur dioxide and a hint of the sweet aromatic scent of carbon disulphide, and you arrive at the ‘perfume’ of our comet.”

Credit image: +European Space Agency, ESA 

Fun for now. But that could change. The comet is currently getting closer and closer to the sun. And like anything you leave out in the sun too long, it will soon start to smell even worse.


After a 10 year journey of some seven billion kilometres, the Rosetta mission is now heading towards its next major milestone : setting the lander Philae on a comet. Rosetta is a robotic space probe built and launched by the +European Space Agency, ESA to perform a detailed study of comet called 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko with both an orbiter and lander module (Philae). On November 12th 2014, a lander is scheduled to touch down on a comet for the first time in the history of spaceflight.
Source: +European Space Agency, ESA




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