Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

On deviations from free-radial outflow in the inner coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Selina-Barbara Gerig 1 R. Marschall 1 Nicholas Thomas 1 Ivano Bertini 2 Dennis Bodewits 3 Björn Davidsson 4 Marco Fulle 5 Wing-Huen Ip 6 Horst Uwe Keller 7 Michael Küppers 8 Frank Preusker 9 Frank Scholten 9 Su C. C. 10 I. Toth 11, 12 Cécilia Tubiana 13 J.S. Wu 10 Holger Sierks 13 Cesare Barbieri 14 Philippe Lamy 12, 15 Rafael Rodrigo 16, 17 Detlef Koschny 18 Hans Rickman 19, 20 Jessica Agarwal 13 Maria Antonella Barucci 21 Jean-Loup Bertaux 15 Gabriele Cremonese 22 Vania da Deppo 23 Stefano Debei 2 Mariolino de Cecco 24 Jakob Deller 13 Sonia Fornasier 21 Olivier Groussin 12 Pedro J. Gutiérrez 25 Carsten Güttler 13 Stubbe F. Hviid 9 Laurent Jorda 12 Jörg Knollenberg 9 Jörg-Rainer Kramm 13 Ekkehard Kührt 9 Luisa-Maria Lara 25 Monica Lazzarin 14 Josè J. Lopez-Moreno 25 Francesco Marzari 14 Stefano Mottola 9 Giampiero Naletto 2 Nilda Oklay 9 Jean-Baptiste Vincent 9
Abstract : The Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) onboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft acquired images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P) and its surrounding dust coma starting from May 2014 until September 2016. In this paper we present methods and results from analysis of OSIRIS images regarding the dust outflow in the innermost coma of 67P. The aim is to determine the global dust outflow behaviour and place constraints on physical processes affecting particles in the inner coma. We study the coma region right above the nucleus surface, spanning from the nucleus centre out to a distance of about 50 km comet centric distance (approximately 25 average comet radii). We primarily adopt an approach used by Thomas and Keller (1990) to study the dust outflow. We present the effects on azimuthally-averaged values of the dust reflectance of non-radial flow and non-point-source geometry, acceleration of dust particles, sublimation of icy dust particles after ejection from the surface, dust particle fragmentation, optical depth effects and the influence of gravitationally bound particles. All of these physical processes could modify the observed distribution of light scattered by the dust coma. In the image analysis, profiles of azimuthally averaged dust brightness as a function of impact parameter b (azimuthal average, “Ā-curve”) were fitted with a simple function that best fits the shape of our profile curves (f(b;u,v,w,z)=u/bv+wb+zf(b;u,v,w,z)=u/bv+wb+z). The analytical fit parameters (u, v, w, z), which hold the key information about the dust outflow behaviour, were saved in a comprehensive database. Through statistical analysis of these information, we show that the spatial distribution of dust follows free-radial outflow behaviour (i.e. force-free radial outflow with constant velocity) beyond distances larger than ∼11.9 km from the comet centre, which corresponds to a relative distance of about 6 average comet radii from the comet centre. Hence, we conclude that beyond this distance, and on average, fragmentation and gravitationally bound particles are negligible processes in determining the optically scattered light distribution in the innermost coma. Closer to the nucleus we observe dust outflow behaviour that deviates from free-radial outflow. A comparison of our result profiles with numerical models using a Direct Simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) approach with dust particle distributions calculated using a test particle approach has been used to demonstrate the influence of a complex shape and particle acceleration on the azimuthal average profiles. We demonstrate that, while other effects such as fragmentation or sublimation of dust particles cannot be ruled out, acceleration of the dust particles and effects arising from the shape of the irregular nucleus (non-point source geometry) are sufficient to explain the observed dust outflow behaviour from image data analysis. As a by-product of this work, we have calculated “Afρ” values for the 1/r regime. We found a peak in the coma activity in terms of Afρ (normalised to a phase angle of 90°) of ∼210 cm 20 days after perihelion. Furthermore, based on simplified models of particle motion within bound orbits, it is shown that limits on the total cross-sectional area of bound particles might be derived through further analysis. An example is given.
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Catherine Cardon <>
Submitted on : Thursday, March 11, 2021 - 4:32:58 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 3:39:05 AM


Publication funded by an institution


Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NoDerivatives 4.0 International License



Selina-Barbara Gerig, R. Marschall, Nicholas Thomas, Ivano Bertini, Dennis Bodewits, et al.. On deviations from free-radial outflow in the inner coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Icarus, Elsevier, 2018, 311, pp.1-22. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2018.03.010⟩. ⟨insu-01738683⟩



Record views


Files downloads