News, Science

Rosetta Space Probe Raises Water Questions

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Rosetta. Image: DLR, CC-BY 3.0
Rosetta. Image: DLR, CC-BY 3.0

Scientists have made some surprising discoveries in space recently.

The European Space Agency (ESA) sent a probe, called Rosetta, six billion kilometres into space to meet up with a comet known as 67/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Last month Rosetta sent a lander, called Philae, onto the surface of the comet. Philae sent back photos, sounds and other information to scientists.

Philae’s mother ship, Rosetta, is still in orbit around the comet. Rosetta has sent back some interesting data as well. And it has scientists scratching their heads, wondering what to make of it.

One of Rosetta’s goals was to find out if the water found on comets was similar to water on Earth. It’s an important question, because a leading theory is that comet water was made before Earth and our solar system. For a long time, scientists have thought that perhaps comets brought water to Earth.

However, what scientists have found from Rosetta is that the water on comets is different from the water we have on Earth. So it probably wasn’t the source of our water.

All water is made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen. However, some water on Earth also has tiny amounts of a molecule called Deuterium.

Comet water, according to information from Rosetta, has more Deuterium than the water on Earth.

This is only one comet, and there are lots of different types of comets and they may have other types of water on them. So further information will be needed.

But it does throw a big theory into question. In their search for answers, scientists will now look at other types of comets and asteroids as well.

Meanwhile, Rosetta is sending back more information to Earth—and creating even more questions for scientists to ponder.

Note: Our headline for this story was originally “Rosetta Space Probe Creating More Questions Than Answers.” In hindsight, this seemed misleading to us so we have changed it. While new data provided by the spacecraft has certainly raised new questions about water, has it really created more questions than answers? At the very least, we have no proof to say that it has. To be on the safe side we’ve updated the headline accordingly.

Related link
TKN’s recent article about Philae’s landing.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
When scientists begin an experiment, they often start with a question that they want to answer. Before they start to answer this question, they come up with a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an answer to the question that is an educated and informed guess. What was the question and the hypothesis about space that was explained in the article?

Reading Prompt: Making Inferences
The last sentence of the article states, “Meanwhile, Rosetta is sending back more information to Earth—and creating even more questions for scientists to ponder.” What other questions do you think scientists are asking?

Junior
Use stated and implied ideas in texts to make inferences and construct meaning (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Intermediate
Develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Language Feature: Past, Present and Future Tenses
Verbs (action words) are written in different tenses, such as: past, present and future. These tenses show when an action is taking place.

Read the article and underline all the verbs in the present tense with green, in the past tense in blue and in the future tense in pink.