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. Hässig, M. Rubin, P. Vernazza, J. H. Waite

The Astrophysical Journal Letters, in press

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abstract

“The nature of the icy material accreted by comets during their formation in the outer regions of the protosolar nebula is a major open question in planetary science. Some scenarios of comet formation predict that these bodies agglomerated from crystalline ices condensed in the protosolar nebula. Concurrently, alternative scenarios suggest that comets accreted amorphous ice originating from the interstellar cloud or from the very distant regions of the protosolar nebula. 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 ROSINA instrument aboard 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. ”