On the nucleus structure and activity of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Sierks, Holger; Barbieri, Cesare; Lamy, Philippe L.; Rodrigo, Rafael; Koschny, Detlef; Rickman, Hans; Keller, Horst Uwe; Agarwal, Jessica; A'Hearn, Michael F.; Angrilli, Francesco; Auger, Anne-Therese; Barucci, M. Antonella; Bertaux, Jean-Loup; Bertini, Ivano; Besse, Sebastien; Bodewits, Dennis; Capanna, Claire; Cremonese, Gabriele; Da Deppo, Vania; Davidsson, Björn; Debei, Stefano; De Cecco, Mariolino; Ferri, Francesca; Fornasier, Sonia; Fulle, Marco; Gaskell, Robert; Giacomini, Lorenza; Groussin, Olivier; Gutierrez-Marques, Pablo; Gutiérrez, Pedro J.; Güttler, Carsten; Hoekzema, Nick; Hviid, Stubbe F.; Ip, Wing-Huen; Jorda, Laurent; Knollenberg, Jörg; Kovacs, Gabor; Kramm, J. Rainer; Kührt, Ekkehard; Küppers, Michael; La Forgia, Fiorangela; Lara, Luisa M.; Lazzarin, Monica; Leyrat, Cédric; Lopez Moreno, Josè J.; Magrin, Sara; Marchi, Simone; Marzari, Francesco; Massironi, Matteo; Michalik, Harald; Moissl, Richard; Mottola, Stefano; Naletto, Giampiero; Oklay, Nilda; Pajola, Maurizio; Pertile, Marco; Preusker, Frank; Sabau, Lola; Scholten, Frank; Snodgrass, Colin; Thomas, Nicholas; Tubiana, Cecilia; Vincent, Jean-Baptiste; Wenzel, Klaus-Peter; Zaccariotto, Mirco and Pätzold, Martin (2015). On the nucleus structure and activity of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Science, 347(6220), article no. aaa1044.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa1044

Abstract

Images from the OSIRIS scientific imaging system onboard Rosetta show that the nucleus of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko consists of two lobes connected by a short neck. The nucleus has a bulk density less than half that of water. Activity at a distance from the Sun of >3 astronomical units is predominantly from the neck, where jets have been seen consistently. The nucleus rotates about the principal axis of momentum. The surface morphology suggests that the removal of larger volumes of material, possibly via explosive release of subsurface pressure or via creation of overhangs by sublimation, may be a major mass loss process. The shape raises the question of whether the two lobes represent a contact binary formed 4.5 billion years ago, or a single body where a gap has evolved via mass loss.

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