Scientists confirm presence of water ice on Rosetta's comet

Scientists have confirmed that the presence of water ice on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Observations taken by the Rosetta spacecraft shortly after its arrival at the comet in 2014 have provided definitive evidence of the presence of water ice, according to a statement released by the European Space Agency Wednesday.

Related: Philae probe makes comet landing

“Although water vapour is the main gas seen flowing from comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the great majority of ice is believed to come from under the comet’s crust, and very few examples of exposed water ice have been found on the surface,” it explained.

An in-depth analysis by Rosetta’s VIRTIS infrared instrument has revealed the composition of the comet’s topmost layer, according to scientists. 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is primarily coated in a dark, dry and organic-rich material but with a small amount of water ice mixed in.

Related: Oxygen discovered on Rosetta comet, stunning scientists

A study, which focused on scans taken between September and November 2014 confirms that two areas in the comet’s Imhotep region that appear as bright patches in visible light do include a significant amount of water ice.

In October scientists were stunned by the discovery of Oxygen on the comet, a finding that could upend theories about how the solar system was formed.

Related: NASA releases stunning Ceres close-up images

While molecular oxygen has been found in Jupiter and Saturn, it’s never been found on a comet. The neutral gas comas of most comets are composed largely of water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

The European Space Agency's Philae lander made space history by successfully reaching the surface of the comet in November 2014. The lander managed to conduct experiments and send data to Earth for about 60 hours before its batteries were depleted and it was forced to shut down its systems. Philae woke up briefly from its hibernation seven months later, and sent data to the Rosetta spacecraft intermittently before shutting down again.