The pristine interior of comet 67P revealed by the combined Aswan outburst and cliff collapse

Pajola, M.; Höfner, S.; Vincent, J. B.; Oklay, N.; Scholten, F.; Preusker, F.; Mottola, S.; Naletto, G.; Fornasier, S.; Lowry, S.; Feller, C.; Hasselmann, P. H.; Güttler, C.; Tubiana, C.; Sierks, H.; Barbieri, C.; Lamy, P.; Rodrigo, Rafael; Koschny, D.; Rickman, H.; ... (2017). The pristine interior of comet 67P revealed by the combined Aswan outburst and cliff collapse. Nature astronomy, 1(5), 0092. Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/s41550-017-0092

[img] Text
Pajola_manuscript_SCL-merged.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to registered users only
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (4MB) | Request a copy

Outbursts occur commonly on comets [1], with different frequencies and scales [2,3]. Despite multiple observations suggesting various triggering processes [4,5], the driving mechanism is still poorly understood. Landslides have been invoked to explain some outbursts on comet 103P/Hartley 2 [6], although the process required a pre-existing dust layer on the verge of failure. The Rosetta mission observed several outbursts from its target comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which were attributed to dust generated by crumbling of materials from collapsing cliffs [7,8]. However, none of the aforementioned works included definitive evidence that landslides occur on comets. Amongst the many features observed by Rosetta on the nucleus of the comet, one peculiar fracture 70 m long and 1 m wide was identified on images obtained in September 2014 at the edge of a cliff
named Aswan [9]. On 10 July 2015 the Rosetta Navigation Camera captured a large plume of dust that could be traced back to an area encompassing the Aswan escarpment [7]. Five days later, the OSIRIS camera observed a fresh, sharp and bright edge on the Aswan cliff. Here we report the first unambiguous link between an outburst and a cliff collapse on a comet. We establish a new dustplume formation mechanism that does not necessarily require the breakup of pressurised crust or the presence of super volatile material, as suggested by previous studies [7]. Moreover, the collapse revealed the fresh icy interior of the comet, which is characterised by an albedo > 0.4, and provided the opportunity to study how the crumbling wall settled down forming a new talus.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


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

UniBE Contributor:

Rodrigo, Rafael; Elmaarry, Mohamed Ramy; Pommerol, Antoine and Thomas, Nicolas


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




Nature Publishing Group




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

15 Nov 2017 16:52

Last Modified:

15 Nov 2017 16:52

Publisher DOI:





Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback