Thursday, 6 October 2011
The Herschel Mission is a partnership between the European Space Agency and NASA. NASA's contribution was to develop two of the mission's three instruments and supporting data and science analysis.
The Mission has now identified a new cosmic source for the same kind of water that appeared on Earth billions of years ago and created the oceans. New measurements from the Herschel Space Observatory show that a comet known as "Hartley 2" from the distant Kuiper Belt contains water with the same chemical signature as Earth's oceans.
The Kuiper Belt is a remote region of the solar system, 50 times as far away as the distance between Earth and the sun. As well as Pluto, the belt has other dwarf planets and numerous comets.
Dariusz Lis, senior research associate in physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said "Our results with Herschel suggest that comets could have played a major role in bringing vast amounts of water to an early Earth. This finding substantially expands the reservoir of Earth ocean-like water in the solar system to now include icy bodies originating in the Kuiper Belt."