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CaSSIS sends first images from Mars orbit

30 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The Mars Camera, CaSSIS (Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System), on ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter captured its first high-resolution images of the Red Planet last week. Developed by a team at the University of Bern in Switzerland, CaSSIS is providing spectacular views, including the Hebes Chasma region at a resolution of 2.8 metres per pixel.

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Rosetta’s comet 67P is much younger than previously thought

14 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Based on computer simulations, astrophysicists at the University of Bern conclude that comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko did not obtain its duck-like form during the formation of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Although it does contain primordial material, they are able to show that the comet in its present form is hardly more than a billion years old.

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Rosetta’s Comet 67P contains ingredients for life

28 May 2016 Astronomy Now

The possibility that water and organic molecules were brought to the early Earth through cometary impacts has long been the subject of important debate. Now, ingredients crucial for the origin of life on Earth, including the simple amino acid glycine and phosphorus — key components of DNA and cell membranes — have been discovered at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

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Surprising discovery of molecular oxygen on comet 67P

29 October 2015 Astronomy Now

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has made the first in situ detection of oxygen molecules outgassing from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a surprising observation that suggests they were incorporated into the comet during its formation. This may have implications for our understanding of the chemistry involved in the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago.