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Rubber Ducky Comet

January 27, 2015

The Rosetta spacecraft currently orbits Comet 67P. Its uncanny resemblance to a child’s rubber ducky toy produces seasons which affect its thin atmosphere.



Comet 67P Credit ESA Rosetta NAVCAM

Comet 67P (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

Can a comet have seasons? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The Rosetta spacecraft reached comet 67P in August of 2014, and has been orbiting it ever since. Southwest Research Institute space scientist Myrtha Haessig says the comet has a unique “rubber ducky” shape, which gives it a northern and southern hemisphere, resulting in seasons not unlike earth’s.

MYRTHA HAESSIG (Southwest Research Institute):

So the southern hemisphere winter at the moment is where we basically have no sunlight, while the northern hemisphere summer is where we have mainly sun all day long. And we see mainly water coming off on the summer side of the ducky and C02 coming off on the other side of the ducky.


Haessig and her colleagues report in the journal Science that the seasons affect the composition of the comet’s thin atmosphere. She says comets provide clues into the early development of our solar system. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science Society.