Stefanie Milam

Future Prospects for Cometary Science

We have entered a new era in cometary, protoplanetary disk, and exoplanet science with significant advances in ground- and space-based observatories, detector technology, observing techniques, as well as through recent dedicated missions such as Kepler, Rosetta, and TESS. ALMA and other broadband facilities, such as IRAM, have revealed amazing insights into the composition, distribution, and diversity of cometary chemistry and revealed some preliminary insight into the nature and origin of volatile species in these pristine bodies. The Rosetta mission has revealed groundbreaking details about cometary composition, structure, dynamics that provides us with the unique perspective of putting not only remote observations of comets within our Solar System, but also those in other planetary systems. The unprecedented sensitivity offered by JWST at near and mid-infrared wavelengths will allow us to probe more distant, fainter, and less active targets and provide a unique perspective on small bodies across our Solar System. Additionally, compositional studies of planetary disks will also be probed and further our understanding of how chemistry may or may not be preserved throughout planet formation. Understanding this volatile composition connection is essential for cometary science and may help reveal the ubiquitous nature/complexity of prebiotic chemistry in our galaxy. This will be greatly expanded upon with future sample return from a comet that may include a volatile component. For instance, the New Frontiers 4 mission concept, Comet Astrobiology Exploration SAmple Return (CAESAR), has proposed to do just that. On the other hand, remote sensing with sensitive new facilities, for hundreds of targets, will be required for a statistical understanding of the composition of these pristine bodies in the Solar System and how they correlate with other planetary systems that can only be inventoried as bulk composition. Among future observatory concepts, the Origins Space Telescope will provide the unique capability to sample 100’s of comets and provide the broader perspective we need moving into the exocomet field.