Title

SPITZER OBSERVATIONS OF COMET 67P/CHURYUMOV-GERASIMENKO AT 5.5-4.3 AU FROM THE SUN

Authors

Authors

M. S. Kelley; D. H. Wooden; C. Tubiana; H. Boehnhardt; C. E. Woodward;D. E. Harker

Abbreviated Journal Title

Astron. J.

Keywords

comets: individual (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko); infrared: solar system; meteors, meteoroids; SPACE-TELESCOPE OBSERVATIONS; ROSETTA MISSION; DISTANT COMETS; CCD; PHOTOMETRY; SOLAR-SYSTEM; INNER COMA; DUST TRAIL; NUCLEUS; PARTICLES; ENCOUNTER; Astronomy & Astrophysics

Abstract

We report Spitzer Space Telescope observations of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at 5.5 and 4.3 AU from the Sun, post-aphelion. Comet 67P is the primary target of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. The Rosetta spacecraft will rendezvous with the nucleus at heliocentric distances similar to our observations. Rotationally resolved observations at 8 and 24 mu m (at a heliocentric distance, r(h), of 4.8 AU) that sample the size and color-temperature of the nucleus are combined with aphelion R-band light curves observed at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and yield a mean effective radius of 2.04 +/- 0.11 km, and an R-band geometric albedo of 0.054 +/- 0.006. The amplitudes of the R-band and mid-infrared light curves agree, which suggests that the variability is dominated by the shape of the nucleus. We also detect the dust trail of the comet at 4.8 and 5.5 AU, constrain the grain sizes to be less than or similar to 6 mm, and estimate the impact hazard to Rosetta. We find no evidence for recently ejected dust in our images. If the activity of 67P is consistent from orbit to orbit, then we may expect the Rosetta spacecraft will return images of an inactive or weakly active nucleus as it rendezvous with the comet at r(h) = 4 AU in 2014.

Journal Title

Astronomical Journal

Volume

137

Issue/Number

6

Publication Date

1-1-2009

Document Type

Article

Language

English

First Page

4633

Last Page

4642

WOS Identifier

WOS:000266662300010

ISSN

0004-6256

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