Cometary evolution : clues on physical properties from chondritic interplanetary dust particles

Rietmeijer, Frans J.M. & Mackinnon, Ian D.R. (1997) Cometary evolution : clues on physical properties from chondritic interplanetary dust particles. In Analysis of Returned Comet Nucleus Samples, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, pp. 247-253.

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Abstract

The degree of diversity or similarity detected in comets depends primarily on the lifetimes of the individual cometary nuclei at the time of analysis. It is inherent in our understanding of cometary orbital dynamics and the seminal model of comet origins that cometary evolution is the natural order of events in our Solar System. Thus, predictions of cometary behaviour in terms of bulk physical, mineralogical or chemical parameters should contain an appreciation of temporal variation(s). Previously, Rietmeijer and Mackinnon [1987] developed mineralogical bases for the chemical evolution of cometary nuclei primarily with regard to the predominantly silicate fraction of comet nuclei. We suggested that alteration of solids in cometary nuclei should be expected and that indications of likely reactants and products can be derived from judicious comparison with terrestrial diagenetic environments which include hydrocryogenic and low-temperature aqueous alterations. In a further development of this concept, Rietmeijer [1988] provides indirect evidence for the formation of sulfides and oxides in comet nuclei. Furthermore, Rietmeijer [1988] noted that timescales for hydrocryogenic and low-temperature reactions involving liquid water are probably adequate for relatively mature comets, e.g. P/comet Halley. In this paper, we will address the evolution of comet nuclei physical parameters such as solid particle grain size, porosity and density. In natural environments, chemical evolution (e.g. mineral reactions) is often accompanied by changes in physical properties. These concurrent changes are well-documented in the terrestrial geological literature, especially in studies of sediment diagenesis and we suggest that similar basic principles apply within the upper few meters of active comet nuclei. The database for prediction of comet nuclei physical parameters is, in principle, the same as used for the proposition of chemical evolution. We use detailed mineralogical studies of chondritic interplanetary dust particles (IDPS) as a guide to the likely constitution of mature comets traversing the inner Solar System. While there is, as yet, no direct proof that a specific sub-group or type of chondritic IDP is derived from a specific comet, it is clear that these particles are extraterrestrial in origin and that a certain portion of the interplanetary flux received by the Earth is cometary in origin. Two chondritic porous (CP) IDPS, sample numbers W701OA2 and W7029CI, from the Johnson Space Center Cosmic Dust Collection have been selected for this study of putative cometary physical parameters. This particular type of particle is considered a likely candidate for a cometary origin on the basis of mineralogy, bulk composition and morphology. While many IDPs have been subjected to intensive study over the past decade, we can develop a physical parameter model on only these two CP IDPs because few others have been studied in sufficient detail.

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ID Code: 61293
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: NASA/CP-1997-10152
Keywords: comet nuclei, interplanetary dust, chemical evolution, geochemistry, Halley's comet
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EARTH SCIENCES (040000) > GEOLOGY (040300) > Extraterrestrial Geology (040302)
Divisions: Current > Institutes > Institute for Future Environments
Deposited On: 21 Jul 2013 22:40
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2013 22:40

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