The icy patches on Comet 67P/C-G

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Data from Rosetta’s high resolution camera have identified more than a hundred small patches of ice on the surface of Comet 67P/C-G.

Some of these bright features are found in clusters, while others appear isolated, and when observed at high resolution, many of them appear to be boulders displaying bright patches on their surfaces.

The clusters of bright features, comprising a few tens of metre-sized boulders spread over several tens of metres, are typically found in debris fields at the base of cliffs. They are most likely the result of recent erosion or collapse of the cliff wall revealing fresher material from below the dust-covered surface.

By contrast, some of the isolated bright objects are found in regions without any apparent relation to the surrounding terrain. These are thought to be objects lifted up from elsewhere on the comet during a period of cometary activity, but with insufficient velocity to escape the gravitational pull of the comet completely.

Most of the images from Rosetta’s high resolution camera have been held back so that the project scientists could publish their papers from the data. This release is in conjunction with one of those papers [pdf].

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