Rosetta saw cliffs collapse on comet

Mar 21, 2017

By Paul Rincon

The comet visited by the Rosetta spacecraft is constantly being re-shaped, sometimes in dramatic fashion.

It witnessed the collapse of entire cliffs at two locations on Comet 67P, events that were probably driven by exposure to sunlight.

The European probe documented the widespread breakdown of materials on the surface during nearly two years orbiting the 4km-wide body.

Details were presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC).

Rosetta entered orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, to give its full name, in September 2014.

The mission enabled researchers to capture multiple images of the comet’s surface features over time, to study how it changed.

Repeated heating and cooling can tease the surface materials apart, leading to erosion, say the researchers.

Mohamed El-Marry and colleagues observed cliff collapses at two regions on the comet called Ash and Seth. These collapses occurred as pre-existing fractures gave way, causing sections of material tens of metres long to crumble.

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