Special Issue Reports

The structure of the regolith on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from ROLIS descent imaging

Science  31 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6247,
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab0232

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Abstract

The structure of the upper layer of a comet is a product of its surface activity. The Rosetta Lander Imaging System (ROLIS) on board Philae acquired close-range images of the Agilkia site during its descent onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. These images reveal a photometrically uniform surface covered by regolith composed of debris and blocks ranging in size from centimeters to 5 meters. At the highest resolution of 1 centimeter per pixel, the surface appears granular, with no apparent deposits of unresolved sand-sized particles. The thickness of the regolith varies across the imaged field from 0 to 1 to 2 meters. The presence of aeolian-like features resembling wind tails hints at regolith mobilization and erosion processes. Modeling suggests that abrasion driven by airfall-induced particle “splashing” is responsible for the observed formations.

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