Report

Subsurface properties and early activity of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Science  23 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6220,
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0709

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Abstract

Heat transport and ice sublimation in comets are interrelated processes reflecting properties acquired at the time of formation and during subsequent evolution. The Microwave Instrument on the Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) acquired maps of the subsurface temperature of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, at 1.6 mm and 0.5 mm wavelengths, and spectra of water vapor. The total H2O production rate varied from 0.3 kg s–1 in early June 2014 to 1.2 kg s–1 in late August and showed periodic variations related to nucleus rotation and shape. Water outgassing was localized to the “neck” region of the comet. Subsurface temperatures showed seasonal and diurnal variations, which indicated that the submillimeter radiation originated at depths comparable to the diurnal thermal skin depth. A low thermal inertia (~10 to 50 J K–1 m–2 s–0.5), consistent with a thermally insulating powdered surface, is inferred.

  • * Distinguished Visiting Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

  • Retired.

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