From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
The first surprising result emerging from VIRTIS’s study of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is the measurement of its albedo, or how much sunlight is reflected by the surface of the nucleus. With an albedo of only 6%, about half as much as the Moon’s, 67P/C-G is one of the darkest objects in the Solar System. Such a low reflecting power indicates that the surface of the comet contains minerals such as, for example, iron sulfides, but also carbon-based compounds. The low albedo also indicates that there is little or no water ice on the outermost layers of the surface of the nucleus.
“This clearly doesn’t mean that the comet is not rich in water, but only that there is no water ice in the outermost shell, just over one millimetre thick,” explains Fabrizio Capaccioni, VIRTIS Principal Investigator from INAF-IAPS in Rome, Italy. “The reason for this is rooted in the recent history of the comet’s evolution, since repeated passes in the vicinity of the Sun cause surface ice to sublimate.”
This result, combined with other Rosetta data, also suggests that during each pass the dust that did not escape along the comet’s tail settled back down to coat the surface and hide the lower layers of water ice.
Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.
This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.
This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.
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