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Rosetta found molecular nitrogen


The new findings, which are published in an article in the latest issue of the journal Science, are based on 138 measurements collected by the instrument ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer core Ion and Neutral Analysis) on board Rosetta between 17 and 23 October, when the spacecraft orbited about 10 km from the center of the comet.
ESA’s Rosetta mission is pocketing another scientific supremacy. But the nitrogen is not unknown about these celestial bodies, indeed. This chemical element has already been revealed in the coma and tail of other comets, but linked with other species to form various compounds, such as hydrogen cyanide and ammonia. Having now discovered its ‘pure’ state variant of the molecule, or two identical atoms bonded together, as much valuable information to clarify the environmental conditions of the solar system still undergoing training, the same time that the dates’ origin of the comet 67P / Churiumov / Gerasimenko.

ESA_Rosetta_Rosina_N2_info

Credit: ESA

Scientists believe the fact that molecular nitrogen was the most common form of aggregation of this element at the dawn of our planetary system, especially in the more remote and cold region, today the kingdom of gas giants, where it is found in abundance even in the atmosphere of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, or in the atmosphere and in the frozen surface of Pluto and Triton, the satellite of Neptune.
The new findings, which are published in an article in the latest issue of the journal Science, are based on 138 measurements collected by the instrument ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer core Ion and Neutral Analysis) on board Rosetta between 17 and 23 October, when the spacecraft orbited about 10 km from the center of the comet.
“Identify areas where the molecular nitrogen allows us to set stringent constraints on the conditions in which it is grown to form the comet, because this compound requires very low to be trapped in the ice,” says Martin Rubin, University of Bern , first author of the study.
The capture of molecular nitrogen in the ice present in the protosolar nebula should be done at temperatures similar to those required for the trapping of carbon monoxide. So, the scientists compared the ratio of molecular nitrogen and carbon monoxide on the comet to that of protosolar nebula, as calculated on the relationship between nitrogen and carbon measured on Jupiter and the solar wind.
This ratio for the comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko appears to be about 25 times lower than the value obtained for the environment of formation of the Solar System. Scientists think that this decrease may be a consequence of the formation of ice at very low temperatures in the primordial nebula.
Another interesting aspect related to the presence of nitrogen in the comet is the role that these bodies may have had in disseminating this chemical element on the planets of the solar system, including the Earth.
“Just as we have investigated to know the role of comets in the supply water to the Earth, we would like to find constraints on the release of other ‘ingredients’, in particular those that constitute the building blocks of life, such as nitrogen,” says Kathrin Altwegg, University of Bern, Principal Investigator for ROSINA.
The investigations carried out, based on reports on the relationship of two isotopes of nitrogen, 14N and 15N, however, indicate that the amount of this element in the terrestrial atmosphere cannot be fully explained by the mechanism of the supply by comets as the one that is studying Rosetta.

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