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Post-rendezvous radar properties of comet 67P/CG from the Rosetta Mission: understanding future Earth-based radar observations and the dynamical evolution of comets

Abstract : Radar observations provide crucial insights into the formation and dynamical evolution of comets. This ability is constrained by our knowledge of the dielectric and textural properties of these small-bodies. Using several observations by Rosetta as well as results from the Earth-based Arecibo radio telescope, we provide an updated and comprehensive dielectric and roughness description of Comet 67P/CG, which can provide new constraints on the radar properties of other nuclei. Furthermore, contrary to previous assumptions of cometary surfaces being dielectrically homogeneous and smooth, we find that cometary surfaces are dielectrically heterogeneous ( ɛr'≈1.6-3.2), and are rough at X- and S-band frequencies, which are widely used in characterization of small-bodies. We also investigate the lack of signal broadening in CONSERT observations through the comet head. Our results suggest that primordial building blocks in the subsurface are either absent, smaller than the radar wavelength, or have a weak dielectric contrast (Δ ɛr'). To constrain this ambiguity, we use optical albedo measurements by the OSIRIS camera of the freshly exposed subsurface after the Aswan cliff collapse. We find that the hypothetical subsurface blocks should have |Δ ɛr'|≳0.15, setting an upper limit of ∼ 1 m on the size of 67P/CG's primordial building blocks if they exist. Our analysis is consistent with a purely thermal origin for the ∼ 3 m surface bumps on pit walls and cliff-faces, hypothesized to be high-centred polygons formed from fracturing of the sintered shallow ice-bearing subsurface due to seasonal thermal expansion and contraction. Potential changes in 67P/CG's radar reflectivity at these at X- and S-bands can be associated with large-scale structural changes of the nucleus rather than small-scale textural ones. Monitoring changes in 67P/CG's radar properties during repeated close-approaches via Earth-based observations can constrain the dynamical evolution of its cometary nucleus.
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https://hal-insu.archives-ouvertes.fr/insu-03702954
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Submitted on : Thursday, June 23, 2022 - 3:07:46 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, June 25, 2022 - 3:06:28 AM

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Essam Heggy, Elizabeth M. Palmer, Alain Hérique, Wlodek Kofman, M. Ramy El-Maarry. Post-rendezvous radar properties of comet 67P/CG from the Rosetta Mission: understanding future Earth-based radar observations and the dynamical evolution of comets. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2019, 489, pp.1667-1683. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stz2174⟩. ⟨insu-03702954⟩

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