Comet Catalina Suggests Comets Delivered Carbon to Rocky Planets

Illustration of a comet from the Oort Cloud as it passes through the inner solar system with dust and gas evaporating into its tail. SOFIA’s observations of Comet Catalina reveal that it’s carbon-rich, suggesting that comets delivered carbon to the terrestrial planets like Earth and Mars as they formed in the early solar system. (Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — In early 2016, an icy visitor from the edge of our solar system hurtled past Earth. It briefly became visible to stargazers as Comet Catalina before it slingshot past the Sun to disappear forevermore out of the solar system.

Among the many observatories that captured a view of this comet, which appeared near the Big Dipper, was the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, NASA’s telescope on an airplane. Using one of its unique infrared instruments, SOFIA was able to pick out a familiar fingerprint within the dusty glow of the comet’s tail – carbon.


STEREO Watches Comet ATLAS as Solar Orbiter Crosses Its Tail

Comet ATLAS swoops by the Sun.
(Credit: NASA/NRL/STEREO/Karl Battams)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO-A spacecraft, captured these images of comet ATLAS as it swooped by the Sun from May 25 – June 1. During the observations and outside STEREO’s field of view, ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft crossed one of the comet’s two tails.


NIAC Award: Deceleration of Interstellar Spacecraft Utilizing Antimatter

Depiction of the Deceleration of Interstellar Spacecraft Utilizing Antimatter concept. (Credits: Gerald Jackson)

NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC)
Phase I Award
Amount: $125,000

Deceleration of Interstellar Spacecraft Utilizing Antimatter

Gerald Jackson
Hbar Technologies, LLC

Antimatter-based propulsion and power has emerged as a leading technology capable of enabling science missions to the exoplanet Proxima b. In stark contrast to other mission proposals involving beamed energy, this mission assumes prompt and continuous science return during the entire voyage, deceleration at Proxima Centauri, and decades-long exploration and scientific data return. Scientific data from Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud object weekly flybys are anticipated starting within a few years of launch.