ESA's rosetta mission: twelve new organic molecules identified in cometary ice

  • Research
Published on July 25, 2022 Updated on July 25, 2022
Dates

on the June 2, 2022

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rosetta
rosetta

Une nouvelle analyse approfondie des données brutes du COSAC réalisée à l'Institut de Chimie de Nice (ICN) (Université Côte d'Azur - CNRS) a permis d'obtenir, après le développement d'une méthode unique et des analyses minutieuses des données, l'identification de 12 molécules organiques du noyau de la comète, au lieu de 16 molécules en 2015.

A new in-depth analysis of COSAC raw data based on a unique method developed by the Nice Institute of Chemistry (Université Côte d 'Azur - CNRS) made it possible to identify 12 organic molecules from the comet nucleus, instead of the 16 molecules found in 2015.
In 2014, the European space mission Rosetta landed its Philae probe on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to study the surface properties and chemical composition of the comet's nucleus. Rosetta was a "Cornerstone" mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). The ambitious objective of the mission was to decipher the chemical origins of life, hence the name Rosetta by analogy with the deciphering of hieroglyphics.

The COmetary SAmpling and Composition (COSAC) instrument was one of the main instruments aboard Philae. It obtained a time-of-flight mass spectrum 25 minutes after Philae's touchdown on the surface of the comet, which was first analyzed manually. 

A new in-depth analysis of COSAC raw data was carried out by a scientific team at the Nice Institute of Chemistry (Université Côte d'Azur - CNRS) using an original Monte Carlo inversion method instead of the old manual method of 2015. The results obtained after developing this unique method and carefully analyzing the data led to the identification of 12 organic molecules from the comet nucleus, instead of the 16 molecules discovered in 2015. Three of the 12 molecules had not been found in the 2015 fit. These molecules are methoxyethane, 2-methoxypropane and cyclopentanol, described for the first time in the recently published scientific article.

 The published study reveals the precise chemical composition of cometary ice. These discoveries have a considerable interdisciplinary value because they advance the study of the molecular origins that triggered the formation of life on Earth.

Leseigneur et al.: Angewandte Chemie International Edition 61 (2022), in print. 

Leseigneur et al.: Angewandte Chemie International Edition 61 (2022), in print. 

 
Contacts

Guillaume Leseigneur - Institut de Chimie de Nice - guillaume.leseigneur@univ-cotedazur.fr
Prof. Dr. Uwe Meierhenrich - Institut de Chimie de Nice - uwe.meierhenrich@univ-cotedazur.fr

Guillaume Leseigneur
Guillaume Leseigneur

Image : La mission cométaire Rosetta a visité le noyau de la comète 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko ici visualisé en plaçant le Philae Lander à sa surface. Philae était équipé d'un spectromètre de masse à temps de vol qui a analysé – pour la première fois – le matériau de surface cométaire in situ. Désormais, des chercheurs de l'Université Côte d'Azur ont identifié 12 molécules organiques dans les glaces cométaires.

Image: Guillaume Leseigneur, Université Côte d’Azur, CNRS, Institut de Chimie de Nice - guillaume.leseigneur@univ-cotedazur.fr - 07.77.06.60.37