Scientists say allowing spacecraft to observe the formation of comets in real time may come true
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Darryl Seligman, postdoctoral researcher from the University of Chicago and corresponding author of the paper, table: “This will be a great opportunity to see a primitive comet’open’ for the first time. It will produce a treasure house of information about how and why comets move, how the solar system forms, and even how earth like planets form.” the research paper has been published in the planetary science journal Accept.
the research results are partly due to the discovery of several major asteroid belts. In the past 50 years, scientists have revised their theory on how our solar system formed. They now envisage a more dynamic and unstable system rather than a large planet The earth evolved in situ, and large pieces of ice and rock dispersed, collided with each other, re formed and moved through the solar system.
many of these celestial bodies eventually condensed into eight planets, but others are still loosely scattered in several areas of space. Seligman said: “These small bodies show you that the solar system is actually a very dynamic, almost living place, and it is constantly changing.”
scientists are very familiar with the asteroid belt near Mars and the larger asteroid belt passing Neptune, the Kuiper belt. However, between Jupiter and Neptune, there is another little-known group of celestial bodies called Centaurus.
occasionally, these small Centaurus planets will be sucked into the inner solar system and become comets. “These objects are very old and contain ice from the early solar system, which has never been melted,” Seligman said. “When an object gets closer and closer to the sun, the ice sublimates and produces these beautiful long tails. Therefore, comets are interesting, not only because they are beautiful; they also provide you with a way to detect the chemical composition of things from the distant solar system.”
in this study, scientists studied the number of centaurs and the mechanism by which these objects occasionally become comets to the sun. They estimated that about half of the comets formed by centaurs were pushed into the inner solar system by interacting with the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn The other half of the Centaur asteroid will be caught in Jupiter’s orbit and thrown to the center of the solar system because it is too close to Jupiter.
the latter mechanism provides a perfect way to better observe these upcoming comets: scientists say that the space agency can send a spacecraft to Jupiter and let it run in orbit until the Centaur asteroid hits Jupiter’s orbit Orbit. Then the spacecraft can take the ride of the Centaur asteroid, fly towards the sun and measure it all the way in the process of its transformation into a comet.
this is a beautiful but destructive process. The beautiful tail of the comet is produced by the ice burned off with the increase of temperature. The ice in the comet is composed of different kinds of molecules and gases, which are connected by each other Different points on the way to the sun start burning. By measuring this tail, the spacecraft can understand what the comet is composed of. “You can find out where the typical comet ice begins to burn and what the detailed internal structure of the comet is, and there is little hope that you can find out from the ground telescope.” Seligman pointed out.
at the same time, the surface of the comet erupts as it warms up and forms gas pits and craters. “Drawing all these will help you understand the dynamics of the solar system, which is important to understand how to form earth like planets in the solar system.” Seligman said.
scientists said that although the idea sounds complex, NASA and other space agencies already have technology to realize it. Spacecraft often go to the outer solar system, and NASA’s Juno mission is currently taking wild photos of Jupiter, which took only about five years to get there. Other recent missions also show that even when celestial bodies move It is also possible to visit them. Osiris Rex visited an asteroid 200 million miles away, and Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft brought back a small amount of rock from another asteroid.
there is even a possible target. A year and a half ago, scientists found that one of the Centaur asteroids named LD2 might be sucked into Jupiter’s orbit in about 2063. Seligman pointed out, As telescopes become more powerful, scientists may soon find more such objects. “In the next 40 years, there are likely to be 10 additional targets, any of which can be reached by spacecraft parked on Jupiter.”
in addition, Seligman said: “We have records of comets dating back thousands of years; how cool it would be to see how this happened up close!”