Comets and Asteroids

Modelling The Water And Carbon Dioxide Production Rates Of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
September 13, 2022
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Modelling The Water And Carbon Dioxide Production Rates Of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

The European Space Agency Rosetta/Philae mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014-2016 is the most complete and diverse investigation of a comet carried out thus far. Yet, many physical and chemical properties of the comet remain uncertain or unknown, and cometary activity is still not a well-understood phenomenon.

We here attempt to place constraints on the nucleus abundances and sublimation front depths of H2O and CO2 ice, and to reconstruct how the nucleus evolved throughout the perihelion passage. We employ the thermophysical modelling code ‘Numerical Icy Minor Body evolUtion Simulator’, or NIMBUS, to search for conditions under which the observed H2O and CO2 production rates are simultaneously reproduced before and after perihelion.

We find that the refractories to water-ice mass ratio of relatively pristine nucleus material is mu~1, that airfall material has mu~2, and that the molar abundance of CO2 relative H2O near 30 per cent. The dust mantle thickness is typically < 2 cm. The average CO2 sublimation front depths near aphelion were ~3.8 m and ~1.9 m on the northern and southern hemispheres, respectively, but varied substantially with time.

We propose that airfall material is subjected to substantial fragmentation and pulverisation due to thermal fatigue during the aphelion passage. Sub-surface compaction of material due to CO2 activity near perihelion seems to have reduced the diffusivity in a measurable way.

Björn J. R. Davidsson, Nalin H. Samarasinha, Davide Farnocchia, Pedro J. Gutiérrez

Comments: 22 pages, 19 figures. This is a pre–copyedited, author–produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in MNRAS following peer review
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2209.05591 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2209.05591v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
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Journal reference: Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 509, 3065-3085 (2022)
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Submission history
From: Björn Davidsson
[v1] Mon, 12 Sep 2022 20:17:28 UTC (325 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻