Rosetta’s comet sculpted by stress | 2/22/2019 | Deborah Byrd
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Rosetta’s comet – aka 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – as captured in March 2016, when the spacecraft was about 200 miles (329 km) away. Image via ESA.

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Factors - World - Space - Case - Earth

What are the factors that cause a world in space to evolve? In the case of Earth, plate tectonics – the movement of the great plates of land that compose Earth’s crust – played a major role. But what if the world is very tiny, like a comet? And what if it’s made of icy materials, not rocky materials like Earth? On February 19, 2019, the European Space Agency (ESA) described a new study pointing out a key process that shaped the evolution of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This is the comet that was studied close-up, from orbit, by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft for two years between August 2014 and September 2016. According to the new study, plate tectonics isn’t the driving process. Instead, ESA said, comet 67P/C-G likely evolved primarily due to geological stress arising from the comet’s dual-lobed shape.

ESA said in a statement:

Small - Icy - Comets - Lobes - Commonplace

Small, icy comets with two distinct lobes seem to be commonplace in the solar system, with one possible mode of formation a slow collision of two primordial objects in the early stages of formation some 4.5 billion years ago. A new study using data collected by Rosetta during its two years at Comet 67P/C-G has illuminated the mechanisms that contributed to shaping the comet over the following billions of years.

The researchers used stress modelling and three-dimensional analyses of images taken by Rosetta’s high resolution OSIRIS camera to probe the comet’s surface and interior.

Christophe - Matonti - Aix-Marseille - University - France

Christophe Matonti of Aix-Marseille University, France, is lead author of the new study. He said:

We found networks of faults and fractures penetrating 500 meters (1,640 feet) underground, and stretching out for...
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