Impact of Radiogenic Heating on the Formation Conditions of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Mousis, O.; Drouard, A.; Vernazza, P.; Lunine, J. I.; Monnereau, M.; Maggiolo, R.; Altwegg, Kathrin; Balsiger, H.; Berthelier, J.-J.; Cessateur, G.; De Keyser, J.; Fuselier, S. A.; Gasc, S.; Korth, A.; Le Deun, T.; Mall, U.; Marty, B.; Rème, H.; Rubin, Martin; Tzou, Chia-Yu; ... (2017). Impact of Radiogenic Heating on the Formation Conditions of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 839(1), L4. Institute of Physics Publishing IOP 10.3847/2041-8213/aa6839

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Because of the high fraction of refractory material present in comets, the heat produced by the radiogenic decay of elements such as aluminum and iron can be high enough to induce the loss of ultravolatile species such as nitrogen, argon, or carbon monoxide during their accretion phase in the protosolar nebula (PSN). Here, we investigate how heat generated by the radioactive decay of ²⁶Al and ⁶⁰Fe influences the formation of comet 7P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, as a function of its accretion time and the size of its parent body. We use an existing thermal evolution model that includes various phase transitions, heat transfer in the ice-dust matrix, and gas diffusion throughout the porous material, based on thermodynamic parameters derived from Rosetta observations. Two
possibilities are considered: either, to account for its bilobate shape, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko was assembled from two primordial ~2 km sized planetesimals, or it resulted from the disruption of a larger parent body with a size corresponding to that of comet Hale–Bopp (∼70 km). To fully preserve its volatile content, we find that either 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko’s formation was delayed between ~2.2 and 7.7 Myr after that of Ca–Al-rich Inclusions in the PSN or the comet’s accretion phase took place over the entire time interval, depending on the primordial size of its parent body and the composition of the icy material considered. Our calculations suggest that the formation of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is consistent with both its accretion from primordial
building blocks formed in the nebula or from debris issued from the disruption of a Hale–Bopp-like body.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Altwegg, Kathrin; Rubin, Martin; Tzou, Chia-Yu and Wurz, Peter


500 Science > 530 Physics




Institute of Physics Publishing IOP




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

10 Nov 2017 13:46

Last Modified:

10 Nov 2017 13:46

Publisher DOI:





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