Active sinkholes found on Comet 67P/C-G

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pits on Comet 67P/C-G

Cool image time! Using Rosetta’s high resolution camera scientists have located a number of active pits similar to sinkholes on Earth on Comet 67P/C-G.

Based on the Rosetta observations, the team has proposed a model for the formation of these sinkholes. A source of heat beneath the comet’s surface causes ices (primarily water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide) to sublimate. The voids created by the loss of these ice chunks eventually grow large enough that their ceilings collapse under their own weight, giving rise to the deep, steep-sided circular pits seen on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The collapse exposes comet ices to sunlight for the first time, which causes the ice chunks to begin sublimating immediately. These deeper pits are therefore thought to be relatively young. Their shallower counterparts, on the other hand, are most likely older sinkholes with more thoroughly eroded sidewalls and bottoms that have been filled in by dust and ice chunks.

Essentially, they have found that decay of the comet’s nucleus has been mostly gentle and steady, rather than explosive, punctuated with sudden abrupt events.

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