Rosetta's comet 67P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko sheds its dusty mantle to reveal its icy nature

S. Fornasier, S. Mottola, H. U. Keller, M. A. Barucci, B. Davidsson, C. Feller, J. D.P. Deshapriya, H. Sierks, C. Barbieri, P. L. Lamy, R. Rodrigo, D. Koschny, H. Rickman, M. A'Hearn, J. Agarwal, J. L. Bertaux, I. Bertini, S. Besse, G. Cremonese, V. Da DeppoS. Debei, M. De Cecco, J. Deller, M. R. El-Maarry, M. Fulle, O. Groussin, P. J. Gutierrez, C. Güttler, M. Hofmann, S. F. Hviid, W. H. Ip, L. Jorda, J. Knollenberg, G. Kovacs, R. Kramm, E. Kührt, M. Küppers, M. L. Lara, M. Lazzarin, J. J.Lopez Moreno, F. Marzari, M. Massironi, G. Naletto, N. Oklay, M. Pajola, A. Pommerol, F. Preusker, F. Scholten, X. Shi, N. Thomas, I. Toth, C. Tubiana, J. B. Vincent

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76 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Rosetta spacecraft has investigated comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from large heliocentric distances to its perihelion passage and beyond.We trace the seasonal and diurnal evolution of the colors of the 67P nucleus, finding changes driven by sublimation and recondensation of water ice. The whole nucleus became relatively bluer near perihelion, as increasing activity removed the surface dust, implying that water ice is widespread underneath the surface.We identified large (1500 square meters) ice-rich patches appearing and then vanishing in about 10 days, indicating small-scale heterogeneities on the nucleus. Thin frosts sublimating in a few minutes are observed close to receding shadows, and rapid variations in color are seen on extended areas close to the terminator. These cyclic processes are widespread and lead to continuously, slightly varying surface properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1566-1570
Number of pages5
JournalScience
Volume354
Issue number6319
DOIs
StatePublished - 23 Dec 2016

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