Chromatography plays its part in turning Science Fiction into Science Fact


Courtesy of Anthias Consulting Ltd.

Tomek Bagiński’s short film Ambition picks up on a fundamental drive of human kind, a thirst for knowledge and understanding, a thirst that can be sated through projects like Rosetta which are turning science fiction into science fact:

Ambition the film

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its Member States and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae lander provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES, and ASI is the associated probe designed to actually land on the comet. This is the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet.

Chromatography will play an important part in analysing the comet and hopefully revealing some of its secrets and perhaps the origins of life on earth. A GC-IR-MS (Gas Chromatography – Isotope Ratio – Mass Spectrometer) named Ptolemy and built by the Open University in collaboration with SAL Space, is an instrument integral to the Rosetta mission. Ptolemy has been designed to measure the chemical and isotopic composition of light volatiles, e.g. water, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, and organic compounds with up to 10 carbon atoms.  The collected volatiles are injected onto a gas chromatography column separating each of the individual compounds as they travel through it.  As each compound leaves the GC column they enter the mass spectrometer which identifies the compound and also measures its hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen or oxygen isotopic composition.
This is a really exciting time as the planned rendezvous date of the 12th November draws ever closer. For more information about Rosetta or the involvement of the Open University please follow the links below below:

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