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That’s The Way The Comet Crumbles: Identifying Comet 67P’s Mass-Wasting-Driven Outburst Plumes

Presentation #408.04 in the session Comets: Nucleus (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
That’s The Way The Comet Crumbles: Identifying Comet 67P’s Mass-Wasting-Driven Outburst Plumes

The Rosetta mission revealed that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s outbursts (unpredictable, dramatic brightening events of the comet) take the form of tightly collimated and/or diffuse plumes of ejected gas and dust [1–3]. Numerous physical mechanisms have been proposed to drive/trigger these enigmatic phenomena, including amorphous water ice crystallization, explosive outgassing, and cryovolcanism. Nevertheless, a growing collection of evidence is beginning to reveal that many of 67P’s outbursts are actually linked to mass wasting events on the surface.

Here we use a new analysis tool to identify another outburst connected to a mass wasting event; this outburst is particularly important, as it was previously thought to be driven by internal energy storage [2]. After the Aswan Cliff Collapse [3] and Maftet-Wosret cliff collapses [4], this is the third such outburst found to be directly tied to a mass wasting event, suggesting a prevalence on the order of at least ~10% for mass-wasting-driven outbursts. Furthermore, we will discuss other available evidence of mass-wasting-driven outbursts such as the outburst magnitude outburst frequency, which is consistent with most (if not all) of 67P’s observed outbursts being directly attributable to mass wasting events. Finally, we will discuss our preliminary mass-wasting-driven outburst simulations exploring how the three observed morphologies of the outburst plumes [1] are related to the details of the mass wasting event.


[1] Vincent et al. (2016) MNRAS 462, s184 [2] Agarwal, J. et al. (2017) MNRAS 469, s606. [3] Pajola, M. et al. (2017) Nature Astron. 1, 0092 [4] El-Maarry, M.R. & Driver G. (2019) EPSC-DPS abstract 1727

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