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Quantifying Morphological Changes & Sediment Transport Pathways on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
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  • Megan Nicole Barrington,
  • Samuel Birch,
  • Abhinav Jindal,
  • Alexander G. Hayes,
  • Paul Corlies,
  • Jean-Baptiste Vincent
Megan Nicole Barrington
Cornell University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Samuel Birch
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Abhinav Jindal
Cornell University
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Alexander G. Hayes
Cornell University
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Paul Corlies
Cornell Universityty
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Jean-Baptiste Vincent
DLR Institute for Planetary Research
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Comets are active geological worlds with primitive surfaces that have been shaped to varying degrees by sublimation-driven sediment transport processes. Rosetta’s rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P) in 2014 provided data with the necessary spatial and temporal resolutions to observe how micro-gravity worlds evolve. Rosetta’s observations have thus far revealed that the majority of changes to the surface occurred within 67P’s smooth terrains, vast sedimentary deposits that blanket a significant fraction of the nucleus. Understanding the global context of these changes, and therefore the sediment transport pathways that govern the evolution of 67P’s surface requires a thorough description of their changing morphologies, and an evaluation of existing global-scale spatial and temporal trends. Accordingly, we present a time-resolved synthesis of erosion and deposition activity on comet 67P as it passed through its August 13, 2015 perihelion from September, 2014 to August, 2016. Our mapping results indicate that, around perihelion, sediment is globally redistributed inter-regionally from 67P’s more active south to the north. Equally important, however, are local, topographically-influenced sediment transport processes, with large volumes of sediment moving intra-regionally over sub-kilometer scales. We also show evidence for regions of near-zero net erosion/deposition between approximately 30–60° latitude, which may act as terminal sedimentary sinks, with remobilization of these materials hindered by multiple factors. This work provides a complete mapping of the sediment transport processes and pathways across 67P observed by the Rosetta misison, and represents a critical step toward understanding the global landscape evolution of cometary surfaces.