The shape and structure of cometary nuclei as a result of low-velocity accretion

M. Jutzi, E. Asphaug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cometary nuclei imaged from flyby and rendezvous spacecraft show common evidence of layered structures and bilobed shapes. But how and when these features formed is much debated, with distinct implications for solar system formation, dynamics, and geology. We show that these features could be a direct result of accretionary collisions, based on three-dimensional impact simulations using realistic constitutive properties. We identify two regimes of interest: layer-forming splats and mergers resulting in bilobed shapes. For bodies with low tensile strength, our results can explain key morphologies of cometary nuclei, as well as their low bulk densities. This advances the hypothesis that nuclei formed by collisional coagulation - either out of cometesimals accreting in the early solar system or, alternatively, out of comparable-sized debris clumps paired in the aftermath of major collisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1355-1358
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume348
Issue number6241
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 19 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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