Heavy metals revealed in comets of the solar system
Specialists from the University of Liege in Belgium have discovered that heavy metal vapors are present inside comets in the solar system and beyond. To do this, they analyzed data from the Very Large Telescope (VLT), reports Nature .
Even those comets that are located far from the Sun turned out to be “carriers” of iron and nickel. Nickel was also present at the first interstellar comet Borisov.
This is the first time that heavy metals commonly associated with hot environments have been detected in the cold environments of distant comets.
Astronomers have long established that heavy metals may be present in the bowels of comets. But at low temperatures, they must remain solid and not turn into gas. However, a new study has shown that iron and nickel vapors are present in cometary atmospheres, and in approximately equal proportions.
“Comets formed about 4.6 billion years ago in a very young solar system and have not changed since then. In this sense, they are like fossils for astronomers, ”explained the authors of the scientific work.
Although comets have been studied for a very long time, scientists first learned about the presence of heavy metal vapors only now. Apparently, because the substances are present in very small quantities: according to the team's estimates, for every 100 kg of water in the atmosphere of comets, there is only 1 g of iron and about the same amount of nickel.
“Usually iron is 10 times more than nickel, but in the atmosphere of these comets we found approximately the same amount of both elements,” the experts noted.
Scientists have suggested that the source of the metals may be a special material on the comet's surface. But it has yet to be identified.
Earlier it was reported that an astronomer from the United States discovered a new comet in the solar system. It was named Comet Leonard.