Abstract

The properties of 50 jet and jet filament outflows from 27 active areas observed on the four comet nuclei that have been visited by spacecraft (1P/Halley, 19P/Borrelly, 81P/Wild 2, and 9P/Tempel 1) are investigated and we propose a taxonomic categorization in which there are three types of active areas: Type I that is dominated by the sublimation of H2O through the porous mantle; Type II that is controlled by the localized and persistent effusion of super-volatiles from the interior; and Type III that is characterized by episodic releases of super-volatiles.

The zonally averaged distribution of active area locations associated with Type II outflows over the four comets is calculated and we find that they are distributed randomly in latitude. In longitude, the distribution shows a marginal tendency for active areas to occur more frequently in the region near the ends of the long axis or, alternatively, a tendency to avoid the region close to the ends of the intermediate axis.  

Combining observations of filamentary structure with exploratory hydrodynamic calculations we find that Type II outflows are likely to be relatively cold laminar flows (Re < 1000) of a mixture of CO2, CO and H2O that are highly collimated (6 – 10 deg full cone angle) during the daytime as a result of being constrained by the ambient H2O atmosphere. We propose that they become visible as a result of the turbulent momentum flux at the base of the filamentary structure that causes the friable surface to release dust at a higher rate than in surrounding areas. 

We present evidence that indicates that geophysical flows occur on cometary nuclei other 9P/Tempel 1 and discuss a possible scenario for the long-term evolution of cometary surfaces near the sun. We conclude with an exposition of a cometary activity paradigm brought up-to-date with discoveries made with recent space missions, associated earth-based investigations, and the results of this work.