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Summer fireworks on comet 67P

Abstract: During its two years mission around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, ESA's Rosetta spacecraft had the unique opportunity to follow closely a comet in the most active part of its orbit. Many studies have presented the typical features associated to the activity of the nucleus, such as localized dust and gas jets. Here we report on series of more energetic transient events observed during the three months surrounding the comet's perihelion passage in August 2015. We detected and characterized 34 outbursts with the Rosetta cameras, one every 2.4 nucleus rotation. We identified 3 main dust plume morphologies associated to these events: a narrow jet, a broad fan, and more complex plumes featuring both previous types together. These plumes are comparable in scale and temporal variation to what has been observed on other comets. We present a map of the outbursts source locations, and discuss the associated topography. We find that the spatial distribution sources on the nucleus correlates well with morphological region boundaries, especially in areas marked by steep scarps or cliffs. Outbursts occur either in the early morning or shortly after the local noon, indicating two potential processes: Morning outbursts may be triggered by thermal stresses linked to the rapid change of temperature, afternoon events are most likely related to the diurnal or seasonal heat wave reaching volatiles buried under the first surface layer. In addition, we propose that some events can be the result of a completely different mechanism, in which most of the dust is released upon the collapse of a cliff.

Pub.: 25 Sep '16, Pinned: 30 Sep '16

Rosetta lander Philae: Flight dynamics analyses for landing site selection and post- landing operations

Abstract: On the 12th of November 2014, The Rosetta Lander Philae became the first spacecraft to softly land on a comet nucleus. Due to the double failure of the cold gas hold-down thruster and the anchoring harpoons that should have fixed Philae to the surface, it spent approximately two hours bouncing over the comet surface to finally come at rest one km away from its target site. Nevertheless it was operated during the 57 hours of its First Science Sequence. The FSS, performed with the two batteries, should have been followed by the Long Term Science Sequence but Philae was in a place not well illuminated and fell into hibernation. Yet, thanks to reducing distance to the Sun and to seasonal effect, it woke up at end of April and on 13th of June it contacted Rosetta again. To achieve this successful landing, an intense preparation work had been carried out mainly between August and November 2014 to select the targeted landing site and define the final landing trajectory. After the landing, the data collected during on-comet operations have been used to assess the final position and orientation of Philae, and to prepare the wake-up. This paper addresses the Flight Dynamics studies done in the scope of this landing preparation from Lander side, in close cooperation with the team at ESA, responsible for Rosetta, as well as for the reconstruction of the bouncing trajectory and orientation of the Lander after touchdown.

Pub.: 13 Apr '16, Pinned: 30 Sep '16

The Philae Lander: Science planning and operations

Abstract: Rosetta is an ambitious mission launched in March 2004 to study comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. It is composed of a space probe (Rosetta) and the Philae Lander. The mission is a series of premieres: among others, first probe to escort a comet, first time a landing site is selected with short turnaround time, first time a lander has landed on a comet nucleus. In November 2014, once stabilized on the comet, Philae has performed its “First Science Sequence”. Philae’s aim was to perform detailed and innovative in-situ experiments on the comet’s surface to characterize the nucleus by performing mechanical, chemical and physical investigations on the comet surface. The main contribution to the Rosetta lander by the French space agency (CNES) is the Science Operation and Navigation Center (SONC) located in Toulouse. Among its tasks is the scheduling of the scientific activities of the 10 lander experiments and then to provide it to the Lander Control Center (LCC) located in DLR Cologne. The teams in charge of the Philae activity scheduling had to cope with considerable constraints in term of energy, data management, asynchronous processes and co-activities or exclusions between instruments. Moreover the comet itself, its environment and the landing conditions remained unknown until separation time. The landing site was selected once the operational sequence was already designed. This paper will explain the specific context of the Rosetta lander mission and all the constraints that the lander activity scheduling had to face to fulfill the scientific objectives specified for Philae. A specific tool was developed by CNES and used to design the complete sequence of activities on the comet with respect to all constraints. The baseline scenario for the lander operation will also be detailed as well as the sequence performed on the comet to highlight the difficulties and challenges that the operational team faced.

Pub.: 04 Feb '16, Pinned: 30 Sep '16

The global surface composition of 67P/CG nucleus by Rosetta/VIRTIS. I) Prelanding mission phase

Abstract: From August to November 2014 the Rosetta orbiter has performed an extensive observation campaign aimed at the characterization of 67P/CG nucleus properties and to the selection of the Philae landing site. The campaign led to the production of a global map of the illuminated portion of 67P/CG nucleus. During this prelanding phase the comet’s heliocentric distance decreased from 3.62 to 2.93 AU while Rosetta was orbiting around the nucleus at distances between 100 to 10 km. VIRTIS-M, the Visible and InfraRed Thermal Imaging Spectrometer - Mapping channel [Coradini, A. and 44 colleagues, 2007. Virtis: An Imaging Spectrometer for the Rosetta Mission, Space Sci. Rev., 128, 529-559.] onboard the orbiter, has acquired 0.25-5.1 μm hyperspectral data of the entire illuminated surface, e.g. the north hemisphere and the equatorial regions, with spatial resolution between 2.5 and 25 m/pixel. I/F spectra have been corrected for thermal emission removal in the 3.5-5.1 μm range and for surface’s photometric response. The resulting reflectance spectra have been used to compute several Cometary Spectral Indicators (CSI): single scattering albedo at 0.55 μm, 0.5-0.8 μm and 1.0-2.5 μm spectral slopes, 3.2 μm organic material and 2.0 μm water ice band parameters (center, depth) with the aim to map their spatial distribution on the surface and to study their temporal variability as the nucleus moved towards the Sun. Indeed, throughout the investigated period, the nucleus surface shows a significant increase of the single scattering albedo along with a decrease of the 0.5-0.8 and 1.0-2.5 μm spectral slopes, indicating a flattening of the reflectance. We attribute the origin of this effect to the partial removal of the dust layer caused by the increased contribution of water sublimation to the gaseous activity as comet crossed the frost-line. The regions more active at the time of these observations, like Hapi in the neck/north pole area, appear brighter, bluer and richer in organic material than the rest of the large and small lobe of the nucleus. The parallel coordinates method [Inselberg, A., 1985. The Plane with Parallel Coordinates, Visual Computer, 1, 69-91.] has been used to identify associations between average values of the spectral indicators and the properties of the geomorphological units as defined by [Thomas, N., and 59 colleagues, 2015. The morphological diversity of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Science, 347, 6220, aaa0440., El-Maarry M. R. and 54 colleagues, 2015. Regional surface morphology of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Rosetta/OSIRIS images Astron. Astrophys., 583, A26.]. Three classes have been identified (smooth/active areas, dust covered areas and depressions), which can be clustered on the basis of the 3.2 μm organic material’s band depth, while consolidated terrains show a high variability of the spectral properties resulting being distributed across all three classes. These results show how the spectral variability of the nucleus surface is more variegated than the morphological classes and that 67P/CG surface properties are dynamical, changing with the heliocentric distance and with activity processes.

Pub.: 16 Mar '16, Pinned: 30 Sep '16