Comet 67P/CG Nucleus Composition and Comparison to Other Comets

Abstract

We review our current knowledge of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko nucleus composition as inferred from measurements made by remote sensing and in-situ instruments aboard Rosetta orbiter and Philae lander. Spectrophotometric properties (albedos, color indexes and Hapke parameters) of 67P/CG derived by Rosetta are discussed in the context of other comets previously explored by space missions. Composed of an assemblage made of ices, organic materials and minerals, cometary nuclei exhibit very dark and red surfaces which can be described by means of spectrophotometric quantities and reproduced with laboratory measurements. The presence of surface water and carbon dioxide ices was found by Rosetta to occur at localized sites where the activity driven by solar input, gaseous condensation or exposure of pristine inner layers can maintain these species on the surface. Apart from these specific areas, 67P/CG’s surface appears remarkably uniform in composition with a predominance of organic materials and minerals. The organic compounds contain abundant hydroxyl group and a refractory macromolecular material bearing aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons. The mineral components are compatible with a mixture of silicates and fine-grained opaques, including Fe-sulfides, like troilite and pyrrhotite, and ammoniated salts. In the vicinity of the perihelion several active phenomena, including the erosion of surface layers, the localized activity in cliffs, fractures and pits, the collapse of overhangs and walls, the transfer and redeposition of dust, cause the evolution of the different regions of the nucleus by inducing color, composition and texture changes.

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Acknowledgements

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 686709. This work was supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) under contract number 16.0008-2. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official view of the Swiss Government. We gratefully thank the MIARD project team at ISSI, Bern, Switzerland led by Professor Nicolas Thomas from the University of Bern’s Space Research and Planetology division. G.F., M.C. and A.R. acknowledge financial support from ASI, Italian Space Agency. L.M. acknowledges the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) grant MO 3007/1-1. D.K. acknowledges DFG-grant KA 3757/2-1.

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Comets: Post 67P / Churyumov–Gerasimenko Perspectives

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Filacchione, G., Groussin, O., Herny, C. et al. Comet 67P/CG Nucleus Composition and Comparison to Other Comets. Space Sci Rev 215, 19 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11214-019-0580-3

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Keywords

  • Comets
  • Composition
  • Ices
  • Organic matter
  • Minerals