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Comet erupts into solar system, releases 1 million tons of debris

A very curious event happened in the Solar System: a bizarre volcanic comet exploded violently and spewed more than 1 million tons of gas, ice and the “potential building blocks of life”. Known as 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, the comet measures about 60 kilometers in diameter and takes about 15 years to orbit the Sun.

Researchers believe this is the most “volcanically” active comet in the Solar System. Furthermore, it is one of 100 comets, known as “centaurs”, that were ejected from the Kuiper belt, located in the outer Solar System.

It was an amateur astronomer named Patrick Wiggins who noticed the dramatic change in the comet’s brightness. Other observers also noticed this peak in brightness and classified it as the result of a huge volcanic eruption. According to the British Astronomical Association (BAA) this was the second largest eruption seen from this comet in the past 12 years. The largest occurred in September 2021.

Cai Stoddard-Jones, a doctoral candidate from the UK’s Cardiff University, told the living science that an eruption of this size is ‚Äúvery rare. He also highlighted the difficulty of measuring and explaining the extent of this type of phenomenon.

This unusual type of volcanic activity is known as cryovolcanism or “cold volcanism”. Over time, the radiation emitted by the Sun can cause the icy interior of comets to sublimate, i.e. pass from a solid to a gaseous state, which generates a build-up of pressure under the crust. That pressure causes the outer shell to rupture, and cryomagma, composed mostly of carbon monoxide and gaseous nitrogen, as well as some frozen solids and liquid hydrocarbons, is ejected into space.

Components ejected from the comet that could form planets

NASA representatives point to the planet-forming potential of this comet-ejected debris, as the constituent elements are the same as what scientists believe gave rise to the planets of the Solar System.

This unusual type of volcanic activity is known as cryovolcanism or “cold volcanism”. Over time, the radiation emitted by the Sun can cause the icy interior of comets to sublimate, i.e. pass from a solid to a gaseous state, which generates a build-up of pressure under the crust. That pressure causes the outer shell to rupture, and cryomagma, composed mostly of carbon monoxide and gaseous nitrogen, as well as some frozen solids and liquid hydrocarbons, is ejected into space.

The post Comet erupts into the Solar System and releases 1 million tons of debris first appeared in Olhar Digital.

Source: Olhar Digital

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