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Elemental and molecular abundances in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Abstract : Comets are considered to be some of the most pristine and unprocessed Solar system objects accessible to in situ exploration. Investigating their molecular and elemental composition takes us on a journey back to the early period of our Solar system and possibly even further. In this work, we deduce the bulk abundances of the major volatile species in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the target of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission. The basis are measurements obtained with the ROSINA instrument suite on board the Rosetta orbiter during a suitable period of high outgassing near perihelion. The results are combined with both gas and dust composition measurements published in the literature. This provides an integrated inventory of the major elements present in the nucleus of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Similar to comet 1P/Halley, which was visited by ESA’s Giotto spacecraft in 1986, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko also shows near-solar abundances of oxygen and carbon, whereas hydrogen and nitrogen are depleted compared to solar. Still, the degree of devolatilization is lower than that of inner Solar system objects, including meteorites and the Earth. This supports the idea that comets are amongst the most pristine objects in our Solar system.
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Martin Rubin, Kathrin Altwegg, Hans Balsiger, Jean-Jacques Berthelier, Michael Combi, et al.. Elemental and molecular abundances in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy P - Oxford Open Option A, 2019, 489 (1), pp.594-607. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stz2086⟩. ⟨insu-02343210⟩



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