Report

Seasonal exposure of carbon dioxide ice on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

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Science  17 Nov 2016:
aag3161
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag3161

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Abstract

Carbon dioxide is one of the most abundant species in cometary nuclei, but due to its high volatility CO2 ice is generally only found beneath the surface. We report the infrared spectroscopic identification of a CO2 ice-rich surface area, located in the Anhur region of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Spectral modeling shows that about 0.1% of the 80×60 m area is CO2 ice. This exposed ice was observed a short time after exiting from local winter; following the increased illumination, the CO2 ice completely disappeared over about three weeks. We estimate the mass of the sublimated CO2 ice and the depth of the surface eroded layer. The presence of CO2 ice is interpreted as the result of the extreme seasonal changes induced by the rotation and orbit of the comet.

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