Loss of the Surface Layers of Comet Nuclei
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The Deep Impact observations of low thermal inertia for comet 9P/Tempel 1 are of profound importance for the observations to be made by the Rosetta spacecraft at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. While sub-surface sublimation is necessary to explain the observations, the depth at which this occurs is no more than 2–3 cm and possibly less. The low thermal conductivity when combined with local surface roughness (also observed with Deep Impact) implies that local variations in outgassing rates can be substantial. These variations are likely to be on scales smaller than the resolution limits of all experiments on the Rosetta orbiter. The observed physico-chemical inhomogeneity further suggests that the Rosetta lander will only provide a local snapshot of conditions in the nucleus layer.
KeywordsComets: surface Comets: nuclei Comets: emission
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