Summer fireworks on comet 67P

Vincent, J. -B.;A’Hearn, M. F.;Lin, Z. -Y.;El-Maarry, M. R.;Pajola, M.;Sierks, H.;Barbieri, C.;Lamy, P. L.;Rodrigo, R.;Koschny, D.;Rickman, H.;Keller, H. U.;Agarwal, J.;Barucci, M. A.;Bertaux, J. -L.;Bertini, I.;Besse, S.;Bodewits, D.;Cremonese, G.;Da Deppo, V.Davidsson, B.;Debei, S.;De Cecco, M.;Deller, J.;Fornasier, S.;Fulle, M.;Gicquel, A.;Groussin, O.;Gutiérrez, P. J.;Gutiérrez-Marquez, P.;Güttler, C.;Höfner, S.;Hofmann, M.;Hviid, S. F.;Ip, W. -H.;Jorda, L.;Knollenberg, J.;Kovacs, G.;Kramm, J. -R.;Kührt, E.;Küppers, M.;Lara, L. M.;Lazzarin, M.;Lopez Moreno, J. J.;Marzari, F.;Massironi, M.;Mottola, S.;Naletto, G.;Oklay, N.;Preusker, F.;Scholten, F.;Shi, X.;Thomas, N.;Toth, I.;Tubiana, C. 2016. Summer fireworks on comet 67P. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 462, S184-S194 DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stw2409 (50th ESLAB Symposium)

During its 2 yr mission around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft had the unique opportunity to follow closely a comet in the most active part of its orbit. Many studies have presented the typical features associated with the activity of the nucleus, such as localized dust and gas jets. Here, we report on series of more energetic transient events observed during the 3 months surrounding the comet’s perihelion passage in 2015 August. We detected and characterized 34 outbursts with the Rosetta cameras, one every 2.4 nucleus rotations. We identified three main dust plume morphologies associated with these events: a narrow jet, a broad fan, and more complex plumes featuring both previous types together. These plumes are comparable in scale and temporal variation to what has been observed on other comets. We present a map of the outbursts’ source locations, and discuss the associated topography. We find that the spatial distribution sources on the nucleus correlate well with morphological region boundaries, especially in areas marked by steep scarps or cliffs. Outbursts occur either in the early morning or shortly after the local noon, indicating two potential processes: morning outbursts may be triggered by thermal stresses linked to the rapid change of temperature; afternoon events are most likely related to the diurnal or seasonal heat wave reaching volatiles buried under the first surface layer. In addition, we propose that some events can be the result of a completely different mechanism, in which most of the dust is released upon the collapse of a cliff.

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