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De Sanctis Maria Cristina, Capaccioni Fabrizio, Ciarniello Mauro, Filacchione Gianrico, Formisano Michelangelo, Mottola Stefano, Raponi Andrea, Tosi Federico, Bockelée-Morvan Dominique, Erard Stéphane, Leyrat Cédric, Schmitt Bernard, Ammannito Eleonora, Arnold Gabriele, Barucci Maria Antonella, Combi M., Capria Maria Teresa, Cerroni Priscilla, Ip W., Kuehrt Ekkehard, McCord Thomas B., Palomba Ernesto, Beck P., Quirico Éric, Piccioni Giuseppe, Bellucci Giancarlo, Fulchignoni Marcello, Jaumann Ralf, Stephan Katrin, Longobardo Andrea, Mennella Vito, Migliorini Alessandra, Benkhoff Johann, Bibring Jean-Pierre, Blanco A., Blecka M., Carlson Robert, Carsenty U., Colangeli Luigi, Combes Michel, Crovisier Jacques, Drossart Pierre, Encrenaz Thérèse, Federico C., Fink Uwe, Fonti Sergio, Irwin Patrick G. J., Langevin Yves, Magni G., Moroz Lyuba V., Orofino Vincenzo, Schade Ulrich, Taylor Frederic W., Tiphene Didier, Tozzi Gian Paolo, Biver Nicolas, Bonal Lydie, Combe Jean-Philippe, Despan Daniela, Flamini Enrico, Fornasier Sonia, Frigeri Alessandro, Grassi Davide, Gudipati M. S., Mancarella Francesca, Markus Kathrin, Merlin Frédéric, Orosei Roberto, Rinaldi Giovanna, Cartacci M., Cicchetti A., Giuppi S., Hello Yann, Henry Florence, Jacquinod Sophie, Reess Jean-Michel, Noschese R., Politi Romolo, Peter Gisbert

The diurnal cycle of water ice on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Nature, 2015, vol. 525, pp. 500-503

Référence DOI : 10.1038/nature14869
Référence ADS : 2015Natur.525..500D

Résumé :

Observations of cometary nuclei have revealed a very limited amount of surface water ice, which is insufficient to explain the observed water outgassing. This was clearly demonstrated on comet 9P/Tempel 1, where the dust jets (driven by volatiles) were only partially correlated with the exposed ice regions. The observations of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko have revealed that activity has a diurnal variation in intensity arising from changing insolation conditions. It was previously concluded that water vapour was generated in ice-rich subsurface layers with a transport mechanism linked to solar illumination, but that has not hitherto been observed. Periodic condensations of water vapour very close to, or on, the surface were suggested to explain short-lived outbursts seen near sunrise on comet 9P/Tempel 1. Here we report observations of water ice on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, appearing and disappearing in a cyclic pattern that follows local illumination conditions, providing a source of localized activity. This water cycle appears to be an important process in the evolution of the comet, leading to cyclical modification of the relative abundance of water ice on its surface.

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