Research Article

Dust measurements in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko inbound to the Sun

Science  23 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6220,
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3905

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Abstract

Critical measurements for understanding accretion and the dust/gas ratio in the solar nebula, where planets were forming 4.5 billion years ago, are being obtained by the GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator) experiment on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Between 3.6 and 3.4 astronomical units inbound, GIADA and OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) detected 35 outflowing grains of mass 10−10 to 10−7 kilograms, and 48 grains of mass 10−5 to 10−2 kilograms, respectively. Combined with gas data from the MIRO (Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter) and ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) instruments, we find a dust/gas mass ratio of 4 ± 2 averaged over the sunlit nucleus surface. A cloud of larger grains also encircles the nucleus in bound orbits from the previous perihelion. The largest orbiting clumps are meter-sized, confirming the dust/gas ratio of 3 inferred at perihelion from models of dust comae and trails.

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