Research ArticleSPACE SCIENCES

The presence of clathrates in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

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Science Advances  08 Apr 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 4, e1501781
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501781


Cometary nuclei are considered to most closely reflect the composition of the building blocks of our solar system. As such, comets carry important information about the prevalent conditions in the solar nebula before and after planet formation. Recent measurements of the time variation of major and minor volatile species in the coma of the Jupiter family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P) by the ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) instrument onboard Rosetta provide insight into the possible origin of this comet. The observed outgassing pattern indicates that the nucleus of 67P contains crystalline ice, clathrates, and other ices. The observed outgassing is not consistent with gas release from an amorphous ice phase with trapped volatile gases. If the building blocks of 67P were formed from crystalline ices and clathrates, then 67P would have agglomerated from ices that were condensed and altered in the protosolar nebula closer to the Sun instead of more pristine ices originating from the interstellar medium or the outskirts of the disc, where amorphous ice may dominate.

  • Space science
  • comets

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