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67P reveals recipe for a comet

Take two smaller comets and add a cosmic smashup

10:42am, September 28, 2015

TWO FOR ONE  The two lobes of comet 67P, seen in this August 2014 image from the Rosetta spacecraft, probably came from two different comets, a new study suggests.

To make one oddly shaped comet, take two smaller comets and squish them together. That probably explains why comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko looks like a rubber duck, a new study reports.

Since the Rosetta spacecraft’s arrival last August (SN: 9/6/14, p. 8), researchers have debated whether 67P was a comet that lost some weight around its waistline or two comets that got a little too attached to one another. Layers and terraces on cliffs gave away 67P’s coupling. Mismatched layers between the head and body imply that the two lobes formed independently and later fused together, Matteo Massironi, a geologist at the University of Padua in Italy, and colleagues report online September 28 in Nature.

The cliffs provide a peek at what passes for bedrock on a comet, revealing a stack of ice and dust

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