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Comet lander offers fresh insights about planet formation


The Philae comet lander might be slumbering, but it can still teach you a thing or two about the nature of celestial bodies. European Space Agency researchers have compared Philae's data against the more distant Rosetta probe, and they've discovered that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko isn't magnetized. If it's representative of other comets, that suggests that magnetic fields aren't nearly as important in planetary formation as scientists thought -- these clumps of dust are forming simply through collisions, and magnetism only factors in when there's enough material for gravity to take over. It could take a long while before there's stronger proof of that theory, but it's already clear that some previously-held beliefs about comets were off the mark.

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