Acceleration of cometary dust near the nucleus: application to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Yuri Skorov, Volodymyr Reshetnyk, Pedro Lacerda, Paul Hartogh, Jürgen Blum

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22 Citations (Scopus)
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We present a model of cometary dust capable of simulating the dynamics within the first few tens of km of the comet surface. Recent measurements by the Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator and Cometary Secondary Ion Mass Analyser instruments on Rosetta show that the nucleus emits fluffy dust particles with porosities above 50 percent and sizes up to at least mm (Fulle et al. 2015b; Rotundi et al. 2015; Schulz et al. 2015). Retrieval of the physical properties of these particles requires a model of the effective forces governing their dynamics. Here, we present a model capable of simulating realistic, large and porous particles using hierarchical aggregates, which shows previous extrapolations to be inadequate. The main strengths of our approach are that we can simulate very large (mm-scale) non-spherical agglomerates and can accurately determine their (1) effective cross-section and ratio of cross-section to mass, (2) gas drag coefficient, and (3) light scattering properties. In practical terms, we find that a more detailed treatment of the dust structure results in three to five times higher velocities for large dust particles in the inner coma than previously estimated using spherical particles of the same mass. We apply our model to the dynamics of dust in the vicinity of the nucleus of comet 67P and successfully reproduce the dust speeds reported early on when the comet was roughly 3.5 au from the Sun. At this stage, we employ a simple spherical comet nucleus, we model activity as constant velocity gas expansion from a uniformly active surface, and use Mie scattering. We discuss pathways to improve on these simplifications in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3410-3420
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • acceleration of particles
  • radiation: dynamics
  • scattering
  • comets: general
  • comets: individual: 67P


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