Visitors to the Rosetta stand at the ESTEC Open Day on 6 October 2013 watched ‘cook a comet’ demonstrations to illustrate aspects of comet science that the Rosetta mission will explore at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in 2014.
The comet analogue was made by mixing together dirt, dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide), water, and a slug of chocolate sauce to represent the organic chemistry of comets. Thick gloves are needed to handle the dry ice to protect against cold ‘burns’.
The final result was a dark, lumpy comet-like nucleus with active gas jets where the dry ice is exposed at the surface, replicating at a much smaller scale the type of activity that real comets experience as they warm up on their approach to the Sun.
Experts from the Rosetta mission were on hand to answer questions. From left to right: Gerhard Schwehm (former mission manager and project scientist for Rosetta, and project scientist for ESA’s Giotto mission to Comet Halley in 1986), Emily Baldwin (ESA’s space science editor) and Fred Jansen (Rosetta mission manager).