Physical properties and dynamical relation of the circular depressions on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Aims: We aim to characterize the circular depressions of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and investigate whether such surface morphology of a comet nucleus is related to the cumulative sublimation effect since becoming a Jupiter family comet (JFC).
Methods: The images from the Rosetta/OSIRIS science camera experiment are used to construct size frequency distributions of the circular depression structures on comet 67P and they are compared with those of the JFCs 81P/Wild 2, 9P/Tempel 1, and 103P/Hartley 2. The orbital evolutionary histories of these comets over the past 100 000 yr are analyzed statistically and compared with each other.
Results: The global distribution of the circular depressions over the surface of 67P is charted and classified. Descriptions are given to the characteristics and cumulative size frequency distribution of the identified features. Orbital statistics of the JFCs visited by spacecraft are derived.
Conclusions: The size frequency distribution of the circular depressions is found to have a similar power law distribution to those of 9P/Tempel 1 and 81P/Wild 2. This might imply that they could have been generated by the same process. Orbital integration calculation shows that the surface erosion histories of 81P/Wild 2, and 9P/Tempel 1 could be shorter than those of 67P, 103 P/Hartley 2 and 19P/Borrelly. From this point of view, the circular depressions could be dated back to the pre-JFC phase or the transneptunian phase of these comets. The north-south asymmetry in the distribution of the circular depressions could be associated with the heterogeneous structure of the nucleus of comet 67P and/or the solar insolation history.