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Rosetta’s comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko sheds its dusty mantle to reveal its icy nature

Sonia Fornasier 1 S. Mottola 2 H. Keller 2, 3 M. Barucci 1 B. Davidsson 4 C. Feller 1 J. Deshapriya 1 H. Sierks 5 C. Barbieri 6 Philippe Lamy 7 R. Rodrigo 8, 9 D. Koschny 10 H. Rickman 11 M. A’hearn 12 J. Agarwal 10, 5 Jean-Loup Bertaux 13 I. Bertini 6 S. Besse 14 Gabriele Cremonese 15 V. da Deppo 16 S. Debei 17 M. de Cecco 18 J. Deller 5 M. El-Maarry 19 M. Fulle 20 O. Groussin 7 P. Gutierrez 8 C. Güttler 5 M. Hofmann 5 S. Hviid 2 W.-H. Ip 21, 22 L. Jorda 7 J. Knollenberg 2 G. Kovacs 5 R. Kramm 5 E. Kührt 2 M. Küppers 14 M. Lara 8 M. Lazzarin 6 J. J. Lopez-Moreno 8 F. Marzari 6 M. Massironi 23 G. Naletto 24, 23, 25 N. Oklay 5 M. Pajola 26, 23 A. Pommerol 19 F. Preusker 2 F. Scholten 2 X. Shi 5 N. Thomas 19 I. Toth 27 C. Tubiana 5 J.-B. Vincent 5
Abstract : The Rosetta spacecraft has investigated comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from largeheliocentric distances to its perihelion passage and beyond. We trace the seasonal and diurnalevolution of the colors of the 67P nucleus,finding changes driven by sublimation andrecondensation of water ice. The whole nucleus became relatively bluer near perihelion, asincreasing activity removed the surface dust, implying that water ice is widespreadunderneath the surface. We identified large (1500 square meters) ice-rich patches appearingand then vanishing in about 10 days, indicating small-scale heterogeneities on the nucleus.Thin frosts sublimating in a few minutes are observed close to receding shadows, and rapidvariations in color are seen on extended areas close to the terminator. These cyclic processesare widespread and lead to continuously, slightly varying surface properties.
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Sonia Fornasier, S. Mottola, H. Keller, M. Barucci, B. Davidsson, et al.. Rosetta’s comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko sheds its dusty mantle to reveal its icy nature. Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2016, 354 (6319), pp.1566-1570. ⟨10.1126/science.aag2671⟩. ⟨hal-02458238⟩



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