Long-term survival of surface water ice on comet 67P

Oklay, N.; Mottola, S.; Vincent, J.-B.; Pajola, M.; Fornasier, S.; Hviid, S. F.; Kappel, D.; Kührt, E.; Keller, H. U.; Barucci, M. A.; Feller, C.; Preusker, F.; Scholten, F.; Hall, I.; Sierks, H.; Barbieri, C.; Lamy, P. L.; Rodrigo, R.; Koschny, D.; Rickman, H.; ... (2017). Long-term survival of surface water ice on comet 67P. Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 469(Suppl_2), S582-S597. Oxford University Press 10.1093/mnras/stx2298

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Numerous water-ice-rich deposits surviving more than several months on comet
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko were observed during the Rosetta mission. We announce the first-time detection of water-ice features surviving up to 2 yr since their first observation via OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) NAC (narrow angle camera). Their existence on the nucleus of comet 67P at the arrival of the Rosetta spacecraft suggests that they were exposed to the surface during the comet’s previous orbit. We investigated the temporal variation of large water-ice patches to understand the long-term sustainability of water ice on cometary nuclei on time-scales of months and years. Large clusters are stable over typical periods of 0.5 yr and reduce their size significantly around the comet’s perihelion passage, while small exposures disappear. We characterized the temporal variation of their multispectral signatures. In large clusters, dust jets were detected, whereas in large isolated ones no associated activity was detected. Our thermal analysis shows that the long-term sustainability of water-ice-rich features can be explained by the scarce energy input available at their locations over the first half year. However, the situation reverses for the period lasting several months around perihelion passage. Our two end-member mixing analysis estimates a pure water-ice equivalent thickness up to 15 cm within one isolated patch, and up to 2 m for the one still observable through the end of the mission. Our spectral modelling estimates up to
48 per cent water-ice content for one of the large isolated feature, and up to 25 per cent water ice on the large boulders located within clusters.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


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

UniBE Contributor:

Pommerol, Antoine and Thomas, Nicolas


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




Oxford University Press




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

06 Apr 2018 16:00

Last Modified:

15 Sep 2020 13:17

Publisher DOI:






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