Quantitative analysis of isolated boulder fields on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Cambianica, P., Cremonese, G., Naletto, G., Lucchetti, A., Pajola, M., Penasa, L., Simioni, E., Massironi, M., Ferrari, S., Bodewits, D., La Forgia, F., Sierks, H., Lamy, P. L., Rodrigo, R., Koschny, D., Dayidsson, B., Barucci, M. A., Bertaux, J. L., Bertini, I., Da Deppo, V., Debei, S., De Cecco, M., Deller, J., Fornasier, S., Fulle, M., Gutierrez, P. J., Guttler, C., Ip, W. H., Keller, H. U., Lara, M. L., Lazzarin, M., Lin, Z. Y., López Moreno, J. J., Marzari, F., Mottola, S., Shi, X., Scholten, F., Toth, I., Tubiana, C., Vicent, J. B. 2019. Quantitative analysis of isolated boulder fields on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Astronomy and Astrophysics 630 DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201834775

We provide a detailed quantitative analysis of isolated boulder fields situated in three different regions of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko: Imhotep, Hapi, and Hatmehit. This is done to supply a useful method for analyzing the morphology of the boulders and to characterize the regions themselves.

Methods. We used OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera images with a spatial scale smaller than 2 mpx(-1) and analyzed the size-frequency distribution and the cumulative fractional area per boulder population. In addition, we correlated shape parameters, such as circularity and solidity, with both the spatial and the size-frequency distribution of the three populations.

Results. We identified 11 811 boulders in the Imhotep, Hapi, and Hatmehit regions. We found that the Hatmehit and Imhotep areas show power indices in the range of -2.3/-2.7. These values could represent a transition between gravitational events caused by thermal weathering and sublimation, and material formed during collapses that has undergone sublimation. The Hapi area is characterized by a lower power index (-1.2/-1.7), suggesting that those boulders have a different origin. They can be the result of material formed during gravitational events and collapses that has undergone continuous fragmentation. We calculated the cumulative fractional area (CFA) in order to investigate how the area is covered by boulders as a function of their sizes. The Hatmehit and Imhotep regions show a CFA that is well fit by a power law. In contrast, the Hapi area does not show the same trend. We analyzed the fractal distributions, finding that the populations seem to be fractal at all dimensions, except for the Hapi distribution, which shows a possible fractal behavior for small dimensions only. Finally, the average values of the shape parameters reveal solid and roundish boulders in all populations we studied.

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