Thermal inertia and roughness of the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko from MIRO and VIRTIS observations

D. Marshall, O. Groussin, J. B. Vincent, Y. Brouet, D. Kappel, G. Arnold, M. T. Capria, G. Filacchione, P. Hartogh, M. Hofstadter, W. H. Ip, L. Jorda, E. Kührt, E. Lellouch, S. Mottola, L. Rezac, R. Rodrigo, S. Rodionov, P. Schloerb, N. Thomas

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Aims. Using data from the Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, we evaluate the physical properties of the surface and subsurface of the nucleus and derive estimates for the thermal inertia (TI) and roughness in several regions on the largest lobe of the nucleus. Methods. We have developed a thermal model to compute the temperature on the surface and in the uppermost subsurface layers of the nucleus. The model takes heat conduction, self-heating, and shadowing effects into account. To reproduce the brightness temperatures measured by the MIRO instrument, the thermal model is coupled to a radiative transfer model to derive the TI. To reproduce the spatially resolved infrared measurements of the VIRTIS instrument, the thermal model is coupled to a radiance model to derive the TI and surface roughness. These methods are applied to Rosetta data from September 2014. Results. The resulting TI values from both instruments are broadly consistent with each other. From the millimetre channel on MIRO, we determine the TI in the subsurface to be <80 JK−1 m−2 s−0.5 for the Seth, Ash, and Aten regions. The submillimetre channel implies similar results but also suggests that higher values could be possible. A low TI is consistent with other MIRO measurements and in situ data from the MUPUS instrument at the final landing site of Philae. The VIRTIS results give a best-fitting value of 80 JK−1 m−2 s−0.5 and values in the range 40–160 JK−1 m−2 s−0.5 in the same areas. These observations also allow the subpixel scale surface roughness to be estimated and compared to images from the OSIRIS camera. The VIRTIS data imply that there is significant roughness on the infrared scale below the resolution of the available shape model and that, counter-intuitively, visually smooth terrain (centimetre scale) can be rough at small (micrometre–millimetre) scales, and visually rough terrain can be smooth at small scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA122
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 2018


  • Comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
  • Instrumentation: spectrographs
  • Methods: data analysis
  • Planets and satellites: surfaces


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