A model of short-lived outbursts on the 67P from fractured terrains
1 Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
2 Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, 119991 Moscow, Russia
3 Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics, TU Braunschweig, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
Received: 22 February 2016
Accepted: 11 June 2016
Aims. We develop a physical model to explain the potent outbursts that occurred in the fractured terrain of comet 67P near perihelion, and predict its temporal characteristics.
Methods. The feasibility of the proposed mechanism is studied using a numerical model accounting for the relevant microscopic/macroscopic processes. We rely on the thermophysical, compositional, and geo-morphological data from the published measurements of respective instruments on board Rosetta.
Results. The key idea of this novel mechanism is built around observations of fractures/cracks in the region of interest. It is argued that as the stresses on the nucleus increased during the perihelion approach, a crack deepening event occurred reaching the deeper material containing super-volatile ices in equilibrium with the surrounding. This sudden opening lead to a violent sublimation of the super-volatile ices. The time scales and mass release of this process are modeled and reported. In our modeling we pay attention to the question of the existence of super-volatile ices in the deeper interior for a long time, and the thermal equilibrium in the interior.
Conclusions. The deepening of pre-existing cracks (fracture) into the material containing highly volatile ices can explain the observed outburst features. The sudden disequilibration of the steady-state reservoir of highly volatile ices results in a violent release of gas and dust. The proposed mechanism also explains the rapid shut down of this activity in accordance with the observations. The proposed mechanism is independent of solar illumination history of a given region, or the pre-existance of large sealed nucleus cavities.
Key words: comets: general / comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko / methods: numerical / space vehicles
© ESO, 2016