A protosolar nebula origin for the ices agglomerated by comet 67p/churyumov-gerasimenko

O. Mousis, J. I. Lunine, A. Luspay-Kuti, T. Guillot, B. Marty, M. Ali-Dib, P. Wurz, K. Altwegg, A. Bieler, M. Hassig, M. Rubin, P. Vernazza, J. H. Waite

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The nature of the icy material accreted by comets during their formation in the outer regions of the protosolar nebula (PSN) is a major open question in planetary science. Some scenarios of comet formation predict that these bodies agglomerated from crystalline ices condensed in the PSN. Concurrently, alternative scenarios suggest that comets accreted amorphous ice originating from the interstellar cloud or from the very distant regions of the PSN. On the basis of existing laboratory and modeling data, we find that the N2/CO and Ar/CO ratios measured in the coma of the Jupiter-family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis instrument on board the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft match those predicted for gases trapped in clathrates. If these measurements are representative of the bulk N2/CO and Ar/CO ratios in 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, it implies that the ices accreted by the comet formed in the nebula and do not originate from the interstellar medium, supporting the idea that the building blocks of outer solar system bodies have been formed from clathrates and possibly from pure crystalline ices. Moreover, because 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is impoverished in Ar and N2, the volatile enrichments observed in Jupiter's atmosphere cannot be explained solely via the accretion of building blocks with similar compositions and require an additional delivery source. A potential source may be the accretion of gas from the nebula that has been progressively enriched in heavy elements due to photoevaporation.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberL33
    JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Mar 10 2016


    • Astrobiology
    • Comets: individual (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko)
    • Solid state: volatile
    • comets: general
    • methods: numerical

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


    Dive into the research topics of 'A protosolar nebula origin for the ices agglomerated by comet 67p/churyumov-gerasimenko'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this