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Constraints on cometary surface evolution derived from a statistical analysis of 67P’s topography

Jean-Baptiste Vincent 1 Stubbe F. Hviid 1 Stefano Mottola 1 Ekkehard Kührt 1 Frank Preusker 1 Frank Scholten 1 Horst Uwe Keller 2 Nilda Oklay 1 Detlef de Niem 1 Björn Davidsson 3 Marco Fulle 4 Maurizio Pajola 5, 6 Marc Hofmann 7 Xuanyu Hu 7 Hans Rickman 8, 9 Zhong-Yi Lin 10 Clément Feller 11 Adeline Gicquel 3 Steve Boudreault 3 Holger Sierks 7 Cesare Barbieri 12 Philippe L. Lamy 13 Rafael Rodrigo 14, 15 Detlef Koschny 16 Michael F. A'Hearn 2 Maria Antonella Barucci 11 Jean-Loup Bertaux 17 Ivano Bertini 6 Gabriele Cremonese 18 Vania da Deppo 19 Stefano Debei 20 Mariolino de Cecco 21 Jakob Deller 7 Sonia Fornasier 11 Olivier Groussin 13 Pedro J. Gutiérrez 22 Pablo Gutiérrez-Marquez 7 Carsten Güttler 7 Wing-Huen Ip 23, 10 Laurent Jorda 13 Jörg Knollenberg 1 Gabor Kovacs 7, 24 Jörg-Rainer Kramm 7 Michael Küppers 25 Luisa Lara 22 Monica Lazzarin 12 José J. Lopez Moreno 22 Francesco Marzari 12 Giampiero Naletto 24, 6, 19 Luca Penasa 26 Xian Shi 7 Nicolas Thomas 27, 28 Imre Toth 13, 29 Cécilia Tubiana 7 
Abstract : We present a statistical analysis of the distribution of large scale topographic features on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We observe that the cumulative cliff height distribution across the surface follows a power law with a slope equal to −1.69 ± 0.02. When this distribution is studied independently for each region, we find a good correlation between the slope of the power law and the orbital erosion rate of the surface. For instance, the northern hemisphere topography is dominated by structures on the 100 m scale while the southern hemisphere topography, illuminated at perihelion, is dominated by 10 m scale terrain features. Our study suggest that the current size of a cliff is controlled not only by material cohesion but by the dominant erosional process in each region. This observation can be generalized to other comets, where we argue that primitive nuclei are characterized by the presence of large cliffs with a cumulative height power index equal to or above -1.5, while older, eroded cometary surfaces have a power index equal to or below -2.3. In effect, our model shows that a measure of the topography provides a quantitative assessment of a comet’s erosional history, i.e. its evolutionary age.
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Jean-Baptiste Vincent, Stubbe F. Hviid, Stefano Mottola, Ekkehard Kührt, Frank Preusker, et al.. Constraints on cometary surface evolution derived from a statistical analysis of 67P’s topography. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2017, 469 (Suppl_2), pp.S329-S338. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stx1691⟩. ⟨insu-01574951⟩



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