Volume 630, October 2019
Rosetta mission full comet phase results
|Number of page(s)
|Planets and planetary systems
|20 September 2019
Outgassing-induced acceleration of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Zuse Institute Berlin, Supercomputing Division,
2 Department of Physics, Harvard University, 17 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Accepted: 18 March 2019
Context. Cometary activity affects the orbital motion and rotation state through sublimation-induced forces. The availability of precise rotation-axis orientation and position data from the Rosetta mission allows us to accurately determine the outgassing of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko/67P (67P).
Aims. We derived the observed non-gravitational acceleration of 67P directly from the trajectory of the Rosetta spacecraft. From the non-gravitational acceleration, we recovered the diurnal outgassing variations and study a possible delay of the sublimation response with respect to the peak of the solar illumination. This allowed us to compare the non-gravitational acceleration of 67P with expectations based on empirical models and common assumptions about the sublimation process.
Methods. We used an iterative orbit refinement and Fourier decomposition of the diurnal activity to derive the outgassing-induced non-gravitational acceleration. The uncertainties of the data reduction were established by a sensitivity analysis of an ensemble of best-fit orbits for comet 67P.
Results. We find that the Marsden non-gravitational acceleration parameters reproduce part of the non-gravitational acceleration, but need to be augmented by an analysis of the nucleus geometry and surface illumination to draw conclusions about the sublimation process on the surface. The non-gravitational acceleration closely follows the subsolar latitude (seasonal illumination), with a small lag angle with respect to local noon around perihelion. The observed minor changes of the rotation axis do not favor forced precession models for the non-gravitational acceleration.
Conclusions. In contrast to the sublimation-induced torques, the non-gravitational acceleration does not place strong constraints on localized active areas on the nucleus. We find a close agreement of the orbit-deduced non-gravitational acceleration and the water production that is independently derived from Rosetta in situ measurements.
Key words: comets: general / comets: individual: 67P / celestial mechanics
© ESO 2019
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