DISASTERS

It's the pits: Comet observed by spacecraft seems to have sinkholes, analysis concludes

  • This Dec. 21, 2014 photo made by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft and provided by researchers led by Jean-Baptiste Vincent shows the most active pit, known as Seth_01, which scientists believe is one of several sinkholes on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The new observations and analysis were released Wednesday, July 1, 2015 by the journal Nature. (Vincent et al., Nature Publishing Group, ESA via AP)

    This Dec. 21, 2014 photo made by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft and provided by researchers led by Jean-Baptiste Vincent shows the most active pit, known as Seth_01, which scientists believe is one of several sinkholes on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The new observations and analysis were released Wednesday, July 1, 2015 by the journal Nature. (Vincent et al., Nature Publishing Group, ESA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This Dec. 21, 2014 photo made by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft and provided by researchers led by Jean-Baptiste Vincent shows the most active pit, known as Seth_01, which scientists believe is one of several sinkholes on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The new observations and analysis were released Wednesday, July 1, 2015 by the journal Nature. (Vincent et al., Nature Publishing Group, ESA via AP)

    This Dec. 21, 2014 photo made by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft and provided by researchers led by Jean-Baptiste Vincent shows the most active pit, known as Seth_01, which scientists believe is one of several sinkholes on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The new observations and analysis were released Wednesday, July 1, 2015 by the journal Nature. (Vincent et al., Nature Publishing Group, ESA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This Dec. 20, 2014 photo made by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft and provided by researchers led by Jean-Baptiste Vincent shows the most active pit, known as Seth_01, which scientists believe is one of several sinkholes on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The new observations and analysis were released Wednesday, July 1, 2015 by the journal Nature. (Vincent et al., Nature Publishing Group, ESA via AP)

    This Dec. 20, 2014 photo made by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft and provided by researchers led by Jean-Baptiste Vincent shows the most active pit, known as Seth_01, which scientists believe is one of several sinkholes on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The new observations and analysis were released Wednesday, July 1, 2015 by the journal Nature. (Vincent et al., Nature Publishing Group, ESA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Comets are basically dirty snowballs, but it turns out they can have a very Earth-like feature: sinkholes.

That's what scientists think after analyzing data from a comet observed by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft. The researchers suggest that 18 large holes on its surface are sinkholes, created by the collapse of its surface into a porous interior.

Some pits are hundreds of yards deep, which gives glimpses of the comet's interior. In some cases, the pits were seen spewing jets of gas and dust, as the sun's warmth turned the ice inside them into a gaseous form.

Other comets have pits too, but they don't look like the apparent sinkholes on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The new observations and analysis were released Wednesday by the journal Nature.

___

Online:

Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature