Who found it? The James Webb Telescope, of course. Water detected on a comet is another milestone of his. It found water vapor around a comet in the main asteroid belt. It is a sign that ice generated in the Solar System may be stored in that area. This was reported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.
“The Webb near-infrared spectrograph instrument was used. This confirms for the first time the existence of gas – specifically, water vapor – around a comet. It is in the main asteroid belt. Water ice from the primordial solar system may be preserved in that region,” they reported.
Between Mars and Jupiter
Telescope images confirm that comet 238P/Read has no carbon dioxide. It is an element that usually makes up to 10 percent of the volatile material of the celestial body. It is one of the key elements for life on Earth. It might have been there when the comet formed. But it could have leached out over billions of years due to warm temperatures.
Another cause would be that the comet would have formed in a warm pocket of the solar system. Carbon dioxide was not available there, explained Michael Kelley of the University of Maryland. He is lead author of the study on this telescope observation.
For a long time, the scientific community speculated about this. They believe the water ice of the Solar System might be preserved in the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter. Water detected on a comet by the Webb telescope proved that such a theory is possible.
“It’s proven. Water ice from the early solar system may be preserved in the asteroid belt,” Kelley said. The next step in the research will be to compare to other comets in the main belt. They will see if they have carbon dioxide before sending out a sample-collection mission. The research was reported in the journal Nature.