Dust particle flux and size distribution in the coma of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko measured in situ by the COSIMA instrument on board Rosetta
1 Max-Planck-Institut für
2 Tuorla Observatory, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Turku, 21500 Turku, Finland
3 Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, CNRS/Univ. Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay, France
4 Solar System Science Operation Division, ESA-ESAC, 28008 Madrid, Spain
5 INAF–Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, 00133 Rome, Italy
6 INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico, 34143 Trieste, Italy
7 Universität der Bundeswehr München, LRT-7, 85577 Neubiberg, Germany
8 Finnish Meteorological Institute, 00560 Helsinki, Finland
9 Dip. di Scienze e Tecnologie, Universitá degli Studi di Napoli Parthenope, 80133 Naples, Italy
10 European Space Agency, 2201 AZ Noordwijk, The Netherlands
Accepted: 26 August 2016
Context. The COmetary Secondary Ion Mass Analyzer (COSIMA) on board Rosetta is dedicated to the collection and compositional analysis of the dust particles in the coma of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P).
Aims. Investigation of the physical properties of the dust particles collected along the comet trajectory around the Sun starting at a heliocentric distance of 3.5 AU.
Methods. The flux, size distribution, and morphology of the dust particles collected in the vicinity of the nucleus of comet 67P were measured with a daily to weekly time resolution.
Results. The particles collected by COSIMA can be classified according to their morphology into two main types: compact particles and porous aggregates. In low-resolution images, the porous material appears similar to the chondritic-porous interplanetary dust particles collected in Earth’s stratosphere in terms of texture. We show that this porous material represents 75% in volume and 50% in number of the large dust particles collected by COSIMA. Compact particles have typical sizes from a few tens of microns to a few hundreds of microns, while porous aggregates can be as large as a millimeter. The particles are not collected as a continuous flow but appear in bursts. This could be due to limited time resolution and/or fragmentation either in the collection funnel or few meters away from the spacecraft. The average collection rate of dust particles as a function of nucleo-centric distance shows that, at high phase angle, the dust flux follows a 1/d2comet law, excluding fragmentation of the dust particles along their journey to the spacecraft. At low phase angle, the dust flux is much more dispersed compared to the 1/d2comet law but cannot be explained by fragmentation of the particles along their trajectory since their velocity, indirectly deduced from the COSIMA data, does not support such a phenomenon. The cumulative size distribution of particles larger than 150 μm follows a power law close to r− 0.8 ± 0.1, confirming measurements made by another Rosetta dust instrument Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator (GIADA). The cumulative size distribution of particles between 30 μm and 150 μm has a power index of −1.9 ± 0.3. The excess of dust in the 10–100 μm range in comparison to the 100 μm–1 mm range together with no evidence for fragmentation in the inner coma, implies that these particles could have been released or fragmented at the nucleus right after lift-off of larger particles. Below 30 μm, particles exhibit a flat size distribution. We interprete this knee in the size distribution at small sizes as the consequence of strong binding forces between the sub-constitutents. For aggregates smaller than 30 μm, forces stronger than Van-der-Waals forces would be needed to break them apart.
Key words: comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
© ESO, 2016