comet

There may not be intelligent life in space, but there is oxygen. Taking 10 years to reach it’s destination, a European spacecraft called the Rosetta, using it’s sampling instruments, detected large amounts of O2 molecules in the gas cloud, or coma, around a comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. While molecular oxygen has been detected on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, this was the first time it was found on a comet.

The O2 molecules could hardly be called fresh air. Scientists estimate them to be 4.6 billion years old. Apparently, they were trapped in the comet cloud before the comet was even created.

The discovery is considered to be significant for many reasons, including that the presence of O2 molecules has long been considered to be a by-product of life forms, however primitive. There is however no life on the comet, which is prompting scientists to consider current theories of precursors to life in the universe.

Scientists are now doing what I would do, which is compare the findings to Halley’s comet.

For more  about the discovery go here and here.

Image credit:
ESA/ROSETTA/NAVCAM via Flickr//CC by SA IGO 3.0