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Fractal cometary dust – a window into the early Solar System

Abstract : The properties of dust in the protoplanetary disk are key to understanding the formation of planets in our Solar System. Many models of dust growth predict the development of fractal structures that evolve into non-fractal, porous dust pebbles representing the main component for planetesimal accretion. In order to understand comets and their origins, the Rosetta orbiter followed comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for over two years and carried a dedicated instrument suite for dust analysis. One of these instruments, the MIDAS atomic force microscope, recorded the 3D topography of micro- to nanometre sized dust. All particles analysed to date have been found to be hierarchical agglomerates. Most show compact packing, however, one is extremely porous. This paper contains a structural description of a compact aggregate and the outstanding porous one. Both particles are tens of micrometres in size and show rather narrow subunit size distributions with noticeably similar mean values of 1.48+0.13−0.59 μm for the porous particle and 1.36+0.15−0.59 μm for the compact. ompact. The porous particle allows a fractal analysis, where a density-density correlation function yields a fractal dimension of Df = 1.70 ± 0.1. GIADA, another dust analysis instrument on-board Rosetta, confirms the existence of a dust population with a similar fractal dimension. The fractal particles are interpreted as pristine agglomerates built in the protoplanetary disk and preserved in the comet. The similar subunits of both fractal and compact dust indicate a common origin which is, given the properties of the fractal, dominated by slow agglomeration of equally sized aggregates known as cluster-cluster agglomeration.
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Thurid Mannel, Mark S. Bentley, Roland Schmied, Harald Jeszenszky, Anny Chantal Levasseur-Regourd, et al.. Fractal cometary dust – a window into the early Solar System. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2016, 462 (Suppl. 1), pp.S304-S311. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stw2898⟩. ⟨insu-01395718⟩



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