Hydration is a major mineral alteration process in primitive asteroids and it might occur in comet nuclei; however, it is poorly understood at low temperatures, especially below the freezing point of water. Long-duration experiments were performed with exposures of amorphous silicate nanoparticles and organic compounds (glycine and ribose) to D2O and D2O + NH3 ices and vapors at temperatures of -17°C and -27°C for 10-120 days; and with exposure of amorphous silicates to H2O vapor/liquid at >25°C for 10 days. The amorphous silicates were analyzed by X-ray diffraction and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and recovery of organic molecules was determined by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. No hydration of amorphous silicates or organic compounds was observed after exposure at temperatures below -17°C for 120 days to ices with or without NH3, whereas hydration of the amorphous silicates was observed in experiments above room temperature. The estimated thermal history of the nucleus of the short-period comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko indicates that the surface temperature does not exceed -45°C, even in a region exposed to strong solar illumination during the perihelion passage. Assuming hydration is controlled by the collision frequency between H2O molecules and dust particles, the present results indicate that cometary dust does not hydrate for more than 25-510 periods of comet 67P. This is consistent with the absence of phyllosilicates on 67P and suggests that amino acids and sugars have not been altered.
- comets: general
- comets: individual (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko)
- interplanetary medium
- meteorites meteors meteoroids
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science