The Rosetta spacecraft has found sinkholes on the comet

The most active pit, known as Seth_01, observed on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the Rosetta spacecraft. Image: Vincent et al., Nature Publishing Group

The Rosetta spacecraft, studying the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since August 2014, has spotted what scientists believe to be sinkholes formed much like they are on Earth.

The sinkholes are deep, almost perfectly circular pits on the surface of the comet.

A study based on close-up images taken by Rosetta suggests these pits are sinkholes, formed when ice beneath the comet’s surface turned into gas.

The study, in the journal Nature, shows that the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko undergoes rapid structural changes as it approaches the sun.

“These strange, circular pits are just as deep as they are wide,” says Dennis Bodewits, an assistant research scientist in astronomy at the University of Maryland.

“We propose that they are sinkholes, formed by a surface collapse process very similar to the way sinkholes form here on Earth.

The Rosetta mission is operated by the European Space Agency.

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