Volume 653, September 2021
|Number of page(s)
|Planets and planetary systems
|22 September 2021
Small lobe of comet 67P: Characterization of the Wosret region with ROSETTA-OSIRIS
LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, Université PSL, CNRS, Université de Paris, Sorbonne Université,
5 place Jules Janssen,
2 Institut Universitaire de France (IUF), 1 rue Descartes, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France
3 Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, Institut de Planétologie et Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG), UMR 5274, Grenoble 38041, France
4 Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg, 3, 37077, Göttingen, Germany
Accepted: 15 June 2021
Aims. We investigated Wosret, a region located on the small lobe of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet subject to strong heating during the perihelion passage. This region includes the two last landing sites of the Philae lander as well as, notably the final one, Abydos, where the lander performed most of its measurements. We study Wosret in order to constrain its compositional properties and its surface evolution. By comparing them with those of other regions, we aim to identify possible differences among the two lobes of the comet.
Methods. We analyzed high-resolution images of the Wosret region acquired between 2015 and 2016 by the Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) on board the Rosetta spacecraft, at a resolution ranging from 2 to 10 m px−1 before and close to perihelion, up to 0.07–0.2 m px−1 in the post-perihelion images. The OSIRIS images were processed with the OSIRIS standard pipeline, then converted into I∕F radiance factors and corrected for the viewing and illumination conditions at each pixel using the Lommel–Seeliger disk function. Spectral slopes were computed in the 535–882 nm range.
Results. We observed a few morphological changes in Wosret, related to local dust coating removal with an estimated depth of ~1 m, along with the formation of a cavity measuring 30 m in length and 6.5 m in depth, for a total estimated mass loss of 1.2 × 106 kg. The spectrophotometry of the region is typical of medium-red regions of comet 67P, with spectral slope values of 15–16%/(100 nm) in pre-perihelion data acquired at phase angle 60°. As observed globally for the comet, also Wosret shows spectral slope variations during the orbit linked to the seasonal cycle of water, with colors getting relatively bluer at perihelion. Wosret has a spectral phase reddening of 0.0546 × 10−4 nm−1 deg−1, which is about a factor of 2 lower than what was determined for the nucleus northern hemisphere regions, possibly indicating a reduced surface micro-roughness due to the lack of widespread dust coating. A few tiny bright spots are observed and we estimate a local water-ice enrichment up to 60% in one of them. Morphological features such as “goosebumps” or clods are widely present and larger in size than similar features located in the big lobe.
Conclusions. Compared to Anhur and Khonsu, two southern hemisphere regions in the big lobe which have been observed under similar conditions and also exposed to high insolation during perihelion, Wosret exhibits fewer exposed volatiles and less morphological variations due to activity events. Considering that the high erosion rate in Wosret unveils part of the inner layers of the small lobe, our analysis indicates that the small lobe has different physical and mechanical properties than the big one and a lower volatile content, at least in its uppermost layers. These results support the hypothesis that comet 67P originated from the merging of two distinct bodies in the early Solar System.
Key words: comets: individual: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko / methods: observational / methods: data analysis / techniques: photometric
© S. Fornasier et al. 2021
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