The 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet that is followed by the Rosetta probe is the result of two objects that slammed into each other and then got stuck that way.
Rosetta first spotted the 67P comet that seems to be shaped like a rubber duck, in July 2014. The weird shape of the comet made scientists wonder about its origin.
At first, the scientists came up with two different possibilities: either the comet is in fact two conjoined comets, or its shape was sculpted this way naturally.
Recently, evidence showed that the first theory was in fact the correct one. The OSIRIS camera that is on the Rosetta probe, snapped pictures of the comet which revealed that the layers that make up the two parts of the duck-shaped comet are different.
The impact of the collision was surely of small proportions, scientists say. Otherwise, the two comets would have destroyed each other.
“What we have seen is that this stratification is really continuous – and that [the one in the tail] doesn’t match that of the head,” stated Matteo Massironi, from the University of Padova, Italy and scientists of the Osiris team.
Other comets that are similar to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, have also been spotted in its vicinity, scientists say. It could be that those comets were also a result of a collision.
Dr. Stephen Lowry a senior lecturer in astronomy and astrophysics said that after analysing the photos taken by the European Space Agency (Esa) probe, he and the other researchers found a crack in the region where the two comets got stuck together.
According to Lowry the crack has not been getting any wider or longer, so there is a possibility that the comet 67P will not split.
It takes more than six years for comet 67P to orbit the sun. The Rosetta spacecraft was launched in 2004 and it arrived at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko ten years later, on 6 August 2014. Scientists say that the Rosetta mission will end in September 2016.
At the Planetary Science Congress in Nantes, France, Matt Taylor, a scientist at the European Space Agency stated that before the end of its mission the Rosetta spacecraft will lend on comet 67P again.
Image Source: mattias.malmer