Mass transport around comets and its impact on the seasonal differences in water production rates

Rubin, Martin; Fougere, N.; Altwegg, Kathrin; Combi, M. R.; Le Roy, Léna; Tenishev, V. M.; Thomas, Nicolas (2014). Mass transport around comets and its impact on the seasonal differences in water production rates. Astrophysical journal, 788(2), p. 168. Institute of Physics Publishing IOP 10.1088/0004-637X/788/2/168

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Comets are surrounded by a thin expanding atmosphere, and although the nucleus' gravity is small, some molecules and grains, possibly with the inclusion of ices, can get transported around the nucleus through scattering (atoms/molecules) and gravitational pull (grains). Based on the obliquity of the comet, it is also possible that volatile material and icy grains get trapped in regions, which are in shadow until the comet passes its equinox. When the Sun rises above the horizon and the surface starts to heat up, this condensed material starts to desorb and icy grains will sublimate off the surface, possibly increasing the comet's neutral gas production rate on the outbound path. In this paper we investigate the mass transport around the nucleus, and based on a simplified model, we derive the possible contribution to the asymmetry in the seasonal gas production rate that could arise from trapped material released from cold areas once they come into sunlight. We conclude that the total amount of volatiles retained by this effect can only contribute up to a few percent of the asymmetry observed in some comets.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Space and Habitability (CSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Rubin, Martin; Altwegg, Kathrin; Le Roy, Léna and Thomas, Nicolas


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
500 Science > 530 Physics




Institute of Physics Publishing IOP




Cléa Serpollier

Date Deposited:

14 Apr 2015 10:35

Last Modified:

28 Jun 2016 17:10

Publisher DOI:





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