NASA’s “most powerful space telescope” finds water in a mysterious comet and a new mystery
Date : 2023-05-17 (02:43 PM)
| By: Abdel Khaleq Kamal
The James Webb Space Telescope has discovered water around a rare comet in the main asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.
The observation represents another scientific advance by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which for the first time indicates gas, in this case water vapor, has been detected around a comet in the main asteroid belt. This is important because it shows that water in the early solar system may have been preserved as ice in the main asteroid belt.
Michael Kelly, an astronomer at the University of Maryland who led the research, said: “In the past, we’ve seen objects in the main belt that have all the characteristics of comets, but we can only do this with this precise spectroscopic data from James Webb. Say yes, water ice is definitely making it.” “With James Webb’s observations of comet 238P/Reed, we can now demonstrate that water ice from the early Solar System can be preserved in the asteroid belt.”
The discovery of water vapor around comet 238P/Read could significantly improve theories that water, an essential ingredient for life, was delivered to our planet from space by comets. But studying the comet also presented a mystery: The comet lacked the carbon dioxide that astronomers expected.
The absence of carbon dioxide around comet 238P/Read surprised the team more than the discovery of water vapor, as this compound was previously calculated to make up 10 percent of the volatiles in comets heated by the Sun.
The team said there are two possible reasons behind the carbon dioxide loss of 238P/Read. First, the comet may have contained carbon dioxide during its formation, which was lost due to heating by the Sun.
“Being in the asteroid belt for a long time can do that — carbon dioxide evaporates more easily than water ice and can leave over billions of years,” Kelly said.
A second, alternative CO2 deficiency theory is that this major asteroid belt may have formed in a region of the Solar System that lacked mixing.
As its name suggests, the main asteroid belt is primarily home to rocky bodies such as asteroids. However, it also provides occasional comet-like material such as 238P/Read.
These objects can be identified by the occasional halo of halo material, or coma, that surrounds them. They can also produce tail material properties of comets.
A comet’s coma and tail come from solid icy material that turns directly into gas as comets approach the Sun and heat up through a process called sublimation. Astronomers believe that this sublimation is where all comets come from either Neptune or the Kuiper Belt, far from the Oort Cloud, which is believed to be at the edge of the Solar System. Both locations would shield the water ice on these bodies from solar radiation, allowing it to be protected, while Mars does not have a location so close to the Sun.
The classification of “main-belt comets” (objects orbiting within the main asteroid belt that exhibit cometary activity during part of their orbits, such as tails and comas) is fairly new, and comet 238P/Read is one of three objects that helped. Forms a family of near-Earth comets.
Astronomers aren’t sure if these icy bodies can also stick to frozen water. This is the first concrete evidence that it can.
Observing the comet in such detail is a remarkable achievement for the powerful space telescope, and the first time gas has been confirmed in “main belt comets.”
“As far as we know, our watery world is unique in the universe, and there’s a mystery — we don’t know how that water got here,” Stephanie Milam, study co-author and James Webb Associate Project Scientist, said in a statement, Understanding the History of Water Distribution in the Solar System. Helps to understand planetary systems and determine if they are on track to host an Earth-like planet.
The team’s detailed research is published in the journal Nature.
“Professional coffee fan. Total beer nerd. Hardcore reader. Alcohol fanatic. Evil twitter buff. Friendly tv scholar.”
OnePlus 11 5G Marble Odyssey: A masterpiece of design and craftsmanship
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Saudi Federation for Electronic Sports and LG
Physicists: The universe is in danger of evaporating