ESA Discovers Comet With Aurora Lights

It seems that Rosetta spacecraft had left a memorable legacy before its mission was over.
Deniz Yildiran

It turns out that auroras are not indigenous to the planets and moons anymore. Step aside giant celestial bodies, a unique comet is on the way. 

Thanks to ESA's Rosetta mission, which ended on September 30, 2016, we are now aware of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko's aurora lights. The ultraviolet aurora is really similar to those on Earth, Jupiter and its moons, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Mars, reports NASA.

NASA's instruments aboard Rosetta contributed to this discovery with the data they obtained. As a first-time finding, this significant exploration was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The gas in the comet's nucleus interacts with electrons coming out from the Sun through a solar wind and ultimately this interaction chips off the water and other molecules, releasing atoms of far-ultraviolet light. 


ESA Discovers Comet With Aurora Lights
This animation comprises 24 montages based on images acquired by the navigation camera on the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko between Nov. 19 and Dec. 3, 2014, Source: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

 "The glow surrounding 67P/C-G is one of a kind," explained Marina Galand of Imperial College London and lead author of the study. "By linking data from numerous Rosetta instruments, we were able to get a better picture of what was going on. This enabled us to unambiguously identify how 67P/C-G's ultraviolet atomic emissions form," she continued. 

Although the light is visible to the naked eye, it was not a quick process to record this shimmering little one. Rosetta orbited and studied this comet for two years, between August 2014 and September 2016. 

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The results will be beneficial as scientists will be able to analyze the space weather in the solar system, observing the particles changing over time. Who knew that a small chunk with a 6561.68 feet radius (2 km) would lead the way? 

It seems that NASA indeed helped a lot to this discovery with three instruments, including one supported by France, Germany, and Taiwan. Detecting the amount and energy of electrons close to the space probe, measuring the ultraviolet light's emission by the aurora and amount of water molecules around the observed comet. 

Do you think that the recent beauty is comparable to that of our Earth's?

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