Dust of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko collected by Rosetta/MIDAS: classification and extension to the nanometre scale

Abstract : The properties of the smallest subunits of cometary dust contain information on their origin and clues to the formation of planetesimals and planets. Compared to IDPs or particles collected during the Stardust mission, dust collected in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko during the Rosetta mission provides a resource of minimally altered material with known origin whose structural properties can be used to further the investigation of our early Solar System. A novel method is presented to achieve the highest spatial resolution of imaging possible with the MIDAS Atomic Force Microscope on-board Rosetta. 3D topographic images with resolutions of down to 8\,nm are analysed to determine the subunit sizes of particles on the nanometre scale. Three morphological classes can be determined, namely (i) fragile agglomerate particles of sizes larger than about 10\,μm comprised by micrometre-sized subunits that may be again aggregates and show a moderate packing density on the surface of the particles; (ii) a fragile agglomerate with a size about few tens of micrometres comprised by micrometre-sized subunits suggested to be again aggregates and arranged in a structure with a fractal dimension less than two; (iii) small, micrometre-sized particles comprised by subunits in the hundreds of nanometres size range that show surface features suggested to again represent subunits. Their differential size distributions follow a log-normal distribution with means about 100\,nm and standard deviations between 20 and 35\,nm. All micrometre-sized particles are hierarchical dust agglomerates of smaller subunits. The arrangement, appearance and size distribution of the smallest determined surface features are reminiscent of those found in CP IDPs and they represent the smallest directly detected subunits of comet 67P.
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Submitted on : Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 6:09:57 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, August 27, 2019 - 11:54:03 AM

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Thurid Mannel, Mark Stephen Bentley, Peter Boakes, Harald Jeszenszky, Pascale Ehrenfreund, et al.. Dust of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko collected by Rosetta/MIDAS: classification and extension to the nanometre scale. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, EDP Sciences, 2019, (in press). ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201834851⟩. ⟨insu-02155727⟩

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