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A new paper based on accumulated data from Rosetta has given scientists a better understanding of the behavior of water ice on Comet 67P/C-G, including the process by which it escapes and is also covered by dust on the surface.
Although water vapour is the main gas seen flowing from comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the great majority of ice is believed to come from under the comet’s crust, and very few examples of exposed water ice have been found on the surface. However, a detailed analysis by Rosetta’s VIRTIS infrared instrument reveals the composition of the comet’s topmost layer: it is primarily coated in a dark, dry and organic-rich material but with a small amount of water ice mixed in.
In the latest study, which focuses on scans between September and November 2014, the team confirms that two areas several tens of metres across in the Imhotep region that appear as bright patches in visible light, do indeed include a significant amount of water ice. The ice is associated with cliff walls and debris falls, and was at an average temperature of about –120ºC at the time.
Note that many media sources today are falsely reporting the “discovery” of water by Rosetta on the comet. This is ridiculous, as water has been detected there for years. To suggest that “discovery” indicates a remarkable level of stupidity and ignorance by these news organizations about science. Either they think their readers are dumb, or they themselves don’t know anything.
Unfortunately, I worry that the answer is both.