Size-frequency distribution of boulders ≥7 m on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Publication date: 30 October 2015
Authors: Pajola, M., et al.
Journal: Astronomy & Astrophysics
Copyright: © ESO, 2015
Aims. We derive for the first time the size-frequency distribution of boulders on a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P), computed from the images taken by the Rosetta/OSIRIS imaging system. We highlight the possible physical processes that lead to these boulder size distributions.
Methods. We used images acquired by the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera, NAC, on 5 and 6 August 2014. The scale of these images (2.44−2.03 m/px) is such that boulders ≥7 m can be identified and manually extracted from the datasets with the software ArcGIS. We derived both global and localized size-frequency distributions. The three-pixel sampling detection, coupled with the favorable shadowing of the surface (observation phase angle ranging from 48° to 53°), enables unequivocally detecting boulders scattered all over the illuminated side of 67P.
Results. We identify 3546 boulders larger than 7 m on the imaged surface (36.4 km²), with a global number density of nearly 100/km² and a cumulative size-frequency distribution represented by a power-law with index of -3.6 +0.2/-0.3. The two lobes of 67P appear to have slightly different distributions, with an index of -3.5 +0.2/-0.3 for the main lobe (body) and -4.0 +0.3/-0.2 for the small lobe (head). The steeper distribution of the small lobe might be due to a more pervasive fracturing. The difference of the distribution for the connecting region (neck) is much more significant, with an index value of -2.2 +0.2/-0.2. We propose that the boulder field located in the neck area is the result of blocks falling from the contiguous Hathor cliff.
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