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Time variability and heterogeneity in the coma of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Science  23 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6220,
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0276

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Abstract

Comets contain the best-preserved material from the beginning of our planetary system. Their nuclei and comae composition reveal clues about physical and chemical conditions during the early solar system when comets formed. ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) onboard the Rosetta spacecraft has measured the coma composition of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with well-sampled time resolution per rotation. Measurements were made over many comet rotation periods and a wide range of latitudes. These measurements show large fluctuations in composition in a heterogeneous coma that has diurnal and possibly seasonal variations in the major outgassing species: water, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. These results indicate a complex coma-nucleus relationship where seasonal variations may be driven by temperature differences just below the comet surface.

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