The Gravity field of Comet 67 P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko Expressed in Bispherical Harmonics

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Tom Andert1, Jean-Pierre Barriot2, Martin Paetzold3, Lydie Sichoix2, Silvia Tellmann3 and Bernd Häusler1, (1)Universität der Bundeswehr München, München, Germany, (2)University of French Polynesia, Geodesy Observatory of Tahiti, Faa'a, French Polynesia, (3)Rheinisches Institut für Umweltforschung, Köln, Germany
On 6 August 2014, after a ten years cruise, the ESA-Rosetta spacecraft arrived at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. At that time the spacecraft was commanded to drift along with the comet at distances between 100 km and 50 km, the distance was then successfully lowered to 30 km in September 2014 and to 10 km in November 2014 and bound orbits could be achieved. Based on Doppler tracking data the Rosetta radio science experiment (RSI) was able to determine the mass of the nucleus and its gravity field in spherical harmonics series in order to constrain density and the internal structure of the nucleus.

The shape of the comet is complex, a representation of the gravity field as belonging to one single body in either spherical or ellipsoidal harmonics series will give the shape of the body more preference than its internal structure. The observed shape of the nucleus, however, offers the opportunity to interpret it as consisting of two different bodies, namely the “head” and the “feet” sections of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, both having a nearly ellipsoidal shape.

In this new approach, the bispherical harmonics expansion, the comet nucleus has been approximated by two independent lobes, each lobe represented by its own spherical harmonics expansion. As a result of the bispherical harmonics representation, it is anticipated that the gravity field will gain higher accuracy and will be less dominated by the complex shape of the comet.

We have derived the analytical expressions of the gravity potential and its derivatives of a body in bispherical coordinates and applied this concept to the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The paper will present the bispherical harmonics representation of the gravity field and first results derived from this new concept.