Comet study REVEALS composition of early solar system
The outgassing of molecules from comets may be the product of the solar system's original composition, according to a recent study from the University of Central Florida.
The Planetary Science Journal reported the findings there.
Olga Harrington Pinto, a doctorate candidate in the College of Sciences' Physics Department at UCF, was the study's principal investigator.
According to Harrington Pinto, measuring the ratio of specific chemicals found after comet outgassing can reveal information about the chemical makeup of early solar systems and the physical processing of comets after they form. Comets, which are tiny bodies of ice, rock, and dust in the solar system, outgas when they warm up and begin to emit gases.
In order to verify theories about the genesis and development of the solar system, Harrington Pinto gathered data on the levels of water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide gases from 25 comets for her dissertation.
This made it possible to study approximately twice as much comet carbon monoxide/carbon dioxide data. The measurements were taken from a range of academic works. When measurements were being made simultaneously with multiple telescopes and study teams, she meticulously combined the data and was able to verify that it was all accurate.
"One of the most interesting results is that comets very far from sun with orbits in the Oort cloud that have never, or only rarely, orbited near the sun, were seen to produce more CO2 than CO in their coma, whereas comets that have made many more trips close to the Sun behave the opposite," Harrington Pinto says. "This had never been seen conclusively before."
"Interestingly, the data are consistent with predictions that comets that have been hanging out very far from the sun in the Oort cloud may have been bombarded by cosmic rays on their surface so much that it created a CO-depleted outer layer," Harrington Pinto says. "Then after their first or second trip close to the sun, this processed outer layer is blasted off by the sun revealing a much more pristine comet composition which releases much more CO."
The next stage of the research, according to the researcher, is to examine the initial observations of the centaur that her team took using the James Webb Space Telescope in order to directly quantify the carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and compare the results with this study.