Photometric properties of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from VIRTIS-M onboard Rosetta

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Abstract

We investigate the nucleus photometric properties of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as observed by the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) onboard the Rosetta spacecraft. Both full-disk and disk-resolved images of the comet have been analyzed, deriving light and phase curves as well as a photometric reduction of the radiance factor (I/F) to single scattering albedo (SSA) in the 0.4-3.5 μm range. Methods. Hyperspectral cubes from VIRTIS were calibrated and corrected for instrumental artifacts. We computed integrated fluxes from full-disk acquisitions to derive nucleus light curves and phase curves at low phase angles (1.2°<α < 14.9°). Disk-resolved observations in the phase angle range 27.2°<α< 111.5° were reduced to SSA by means of a simplified Hapke model, deriving average spectrophotometric properties of the surface and producing SSA maps at different wavelengths. Spectral phase reddening in the visible (VIS) and infrared (IR) ranges was measured. Finally, full-disk and disk-resolved data were used together to derive a phase curve of the nucleus in the 1.2°<α < 111.5° range. Results. We measure an asymmetric double-peaked light curve that is due to the elongated shape of the nucleus. The average SSA albedo shows a reddish spectrum with a strong absorption feature centered at 3.2 μm, while the surface exhibits a backscattering behavior. The derived geometric albedo is Ageo = 0.062 ± 0.002 at 0.55 μm, indicating a very dark surface. Phase reddening is significant both in the VIS and IR ranges, and we report spectral slopes of 0.20/kÅ and 0.033/kÅ, respectively, after applying photometric reduction. SSA maps indicate that Hapi and Imothep regions are the brightest in the VIS, with the former showing a bluer spectrum with respect to the rest of the surface. The phase curve of the nucleus shows a strong opposition effect, with β = 0.077 ± 0.002 for α < 15°.

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Ciarniello, M., Capaccioni, F., Filacchione, G., Raponi, A., Tosi, F., De Sanctis, M. C., … Schmitt, B. (2015). Photometric properties of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from VIRTIS-M onboard Rosetta. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 583. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201526307

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