Infrared detection of aliphatic organics on a cometary nucleus

Raponi, A.; Ciarniello, M.; Capaccioni, F.; Mennella, V.; Filacchione, G.; Vinogradoff, V.; Poch, O.; Beck, P.; Quirico, E.; De Sanctis, M. C.; Moroz, L. V.; Kappel, D.; Erard, S.; Bockelée-Morvan, D.; Longobardo, A.; Tosi, F.; Palomba, E.; Combe, J.-P.; Rousseau, B.; Arnold, G.; ... (2020). Infrared detection of aliphatic organics on a cometary nucleus. Nature astronomy, 4(5), pp. 500-505. Springer Nature 10.1038/s41550-019-0992-8

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The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission has acquired unprecedented measurements of the surface of the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (hereafter, 67P), the composition of which, as determined by in situ and remotesensing instruments, including the VIRTIS instrument, seems to be an assemblage of ices, minerals and organic material. We performed a refined analysis of infrared observations of the nucleus of 67P carried out by the VIRTIS-M hyperspectral imager. We find that the overall shape of the infrared spectrum of 67P is similar to that of other carbon-rich outer Solar System objects, suggesting a possible genetic link with them. More importantly, we also confirm the complex spectral structure of the wide 2.8–3.6 µm absorption feature populated by fainter bands. Among these, we unambiguously identify the presence of aliphatic organics by their ubiquitous 3.38 µm, 3.42 µm and 3.47 µm bands. This infrared detection of aliphatic species on a cometary surface has strong implications for the evolutionary history of the primordial Solar System and is evidence that comets provide an evolutionary link between interstellar material and Solar System bodies.

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:

Pommerol, Antoine


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




Springer Nature




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

31 Jan 2020 17:00

Last Modified:

20 May 2020 01:32

Publisher DOI:





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