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

Jean-Baptiste Vincent 1 Dennis Bodewits 2 Sébastien Besse 3 Holger Sierks 1 Cesare Barbieri 4 Philippe Lamy 5 Rafael Rodrigo 6, 7 Detlef Koschny 3 Hans Rickman 8, 9 Horst Uwe Keller 10 Jessica Agarwal 1 Michael F. A'Hearn 2 Anne-Thérèse Auger 5 M. Antonella Barucci 11 Jean-Loup Bertaux 12 Ivano Bertini 13 Claire Capanna 5 Gabriele Cremonese 14 Vania da Deppo 15 Björn Davidsson 7 Stefano Debei 16 Mariolino de Cecco 17 Mohamed Ramy El-Maarry 18 Francesca Ferri 13 Sonia Fornasier 11 Marco Fulle 19 Robert Gaskell 20 Lorenza Giacomini 13 Olivier Groussin 5 Aurélie Guilbert-Lepoutre 2 P. Gutierrez-Marques 1 Pedro J. Gutiérrez 21 Carsten Güttler 1 Nick Hoekzema 1 Sebastian Höfner 1 Stubbe F. Hviid 22 Wing-Huen Ip 23 Laurent Jorda 5 Jörg Knollenberg 22 Gabor Kovacs 1 Rainer Kramm 1 Ekkehard Kührt 22 Michael Küppers 24 Fiorangela La Forgia 4 Luisa M. Lara 21 Monica Lazzarin 4 Vicky Lee 25 Cédric Leyrat 11 Zhong-Yi Lin 23 Josè J. Lopez Moreno 21 Stephen Lowry 26 Sara Magrin 4 Lucie Maquet 24 Simone Marchi 27 Francesco Marzari 4 Matteo Massironi 28 Harald Michalik 29 Richard Moissl 24 Stefano Mottola 22 Giampiero Naletto 13, 15 Nilda Oklay 1 Maurizio Pajola 13 Frank Preusker 22 Frank Scholten 22 Nicolas Thomas 18 Imre Toth 30 Cecilia Tubiana 1 
LATMOS - Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales
Abstract : Pits have been observed on many cometary nuclei mapped by spacecraft1, 2, 3, 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 experiments5, 6 and models7, 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 impacts8, 9. Alternative mechanisms like explosive activity10 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.
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Submitted on : Monday, July 13, 2015 - 10:29:40 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, December 6, 2022 - 4:04:46 AM



Jean-Baptiste Vincent, Dennis Bodewits, Sébastien Besse, Holger Sierks, Cesare Barbieri, et al.. Large heterogeneities in comet 67P as revealed by active pits from sinkhole collapse. Nature, 2015, 523 (7558), pp.63-66. ⟨10.1038/nature14564⟩. ⟨insu-01176031⟩



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