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Journal Articles Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Year : 2017

Constraints on cometary surface evolution derived from a statistical analysis of 67P’s topography

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Jean-Baptiste Vincent
  • Function : Author
  • PersonId : 1014657
Jean-Loup Bertaux
  • Function : Author
  • PersonId : 914210
Pedro J. Gutiérrez
  • Function : Author
  • PersonId : 880386
Laurent Jorda
Michael Küppers

Abstract

We present a statistical analysis of the distribution of large scale topographic features on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We observe that the cumulative cliff height distribution across the surface follows a power law with a slope equal to −1.69 ± 0.02. When this distribution is studied independently for each region, we find a good correlation between the slope of the power law and the orbital erosion rate of the surface. For instance, the northern hemisphere topography is dominated by structures on the 100 m scale while the southern hemisphere topography, illuminated at perihelion, is dominated by 10 m scale terrain features. Our study suggest that the current size of a cliff is controlled not only by material cohesion but by the dominant erosional process in each region. This observation can be generalized to other comets, where we argue that primitive nuclei are characterized by the presence of large cliffs with a cumulative height power index equal to or above -1.5, while older, eroded cometary surfaces have a power index equal to or below -2.3. In effect, our model shows that a measure of the topography provides a quantitative assessment of a comet’s erosional history, i.e. its evolutionary age.
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insu-01574951 , version 1 (13-11-2020)

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Jean-Baptiste Vincent, Stubbe F. Hviid, Stefano Mottola, Ekkehard Kührt, Frank Preusker, et al.. Constraints on cometary surface evolution derived from a statistical analysis of 67P’s topography. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2017, 469 (Suppl_2), pp.S329-S338. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stx1691⟩. ⟨insu-01574951⟩
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