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, 347 (6220), aaa0628

Cometary Science. The Organic-Rich Surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as Seen by VIRTIS/Rosetta

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Cometary Science. The Organic-Rich Surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as Seen by VIRTIS/Rosetta

F Capaccioni et al. Science.

Abstract

The VIRTIS (Visible, Infrared and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) instrument on board the Rosetta spacecraft has provided evidence of carbon-bearing compounds on the nucleus of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The very low reflectance of the nucleus (normal albedo of 0.060 ± 0.003 at 0.55 micrometers), the spectral slopes in visible and infrared ranges (5 to 25 and 1.5 to 5% kÅ(-1)), and the broad absorption feature in the 2.9-to-3.6-micrometer range present across the entire illuminated surface are compatible with opaque minerals associated with nonvolatile organic macromolecular materials: a complex mixture of various types of carbon-hydrogen and/or oxygen-hydrogen chemical groups, with little contribution of nitrogen-hydrogen groups. In active areas, the changes in spectral slope and absorption feature width may suggest small amounts of water-ice. However, no ice-rich patches are observed, indicating a generally dehydrated nature for the surface currently illuminated by the Sun.

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