Large heterogeneities in comet 67P as revealed by active pits from sinkhole collapse

Vincent, Jean-Baptiste; Bodewits, Dennis; Besse, Sebastien; Sierks, Holger; Barbieri, Cesare; Lamy, Philippe; Rodrigo, Rafael; Koschny, Detlef; Rickman, Hans; Keller, Horst Uwe; Agarwal, Jessica; A'Hearn, Michael F.; Auger, Anne-Therese; Barucci, M. Antonella; Bertaux, Jean-Loup; Bertini, Ivano; Capanna, Claire; Cremonese, Gabriele; Da Deppo, Vania; Davidsson, Bjoern; ... (2015). Large heterogeneities in comet 67P as revealed by active pits from sinkhole collapse. Nature, 523(7558), pp. 63-66. Macmillan Journals Ltd. 10.1038/nature14564

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Pits have been observed on many cometary nuclei mapped by spacecraft(1-4). It has been argued that cometary pits are a signature of endogenic activity, rather than impact craters such as those on planetary and asteroid surfaces. Impact experiments(5,6) andmodels(7,8) cannot reproduce the shapes of most of the observed cometary pits, and the predicted collision rates imply that few of the pits are related to impacts(8,9). Alternative mechanisms like explosive activity(10) have been suggested, but the driving process remains unknown. Here we report that pits on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko are active, and probably created by a sinkhole process, possibly accompanied by outbursts. We argue that after formation, pits expand slowly in diameter, owing to sublimation-driven retreat of the walls. Therefore, pits characterize how eroded the surface is: a fresh cometary surface will have a ragged structure with many pits, while an evolved surface will look smoother. The size and spatial distribution of pits imply that large heterogeneities exist in the physical, structural or compositional properties of the first few hundred metres below the current nucleus surface.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

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

UniBE Contributor:

Elmaarry, Mohamed Ramy and Thomas, Nicolas

Subjects:

500 Science
500 Science > 530 Physics

ISSN:

0028-0836

Publisher:

Macmillan Journals Ltd.

Language:

English

Submitter:

Katharina Weyeneth-Moser

Date Deposited:

17 Jun 2016 09:59

Last Modified:

17 Jun 2016 09:59

Publisher DOI:

10.1038/nature14564

Web of Science ID:

000357169500031

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.81728

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/81728

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