Determination of the coma dust back-scattering of 67P for phase angles from 1.2° to 75°

Uwe Fink, Lyn Doose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A phase curve is derived for the dust coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P) from 1.2° to 74° using images from the OSIRIS camera system on board the Rosetta mission during the period 2014 July 25 to 2015 February 23 as the spacecraft approached the comet. We analyzed 123 images of the continuum filter at 612.6 nm and 60 images of the 375 nm UV continuum filter of the Wide Angle Camera. Our method of extracting a phase curve, close to the nucleus, taking into account illumination conditions, activity of the comet, strong radial radiance intensity decrease and varying phase angles across the image, is described in detail. Our derived backscattering phase curve is considerably steeper than earlier published data. The radiance of the scattering dust in the 612.6 nm filter increases by about a factor of 12 going from a phase angle of 75° to a phase angle of 2.0°. The phase curve for the 375 nm filter is similar but there is reasonable evidence that the I/F color ratio between the two filters changes from a roughly neutral color ratio of 1.2 to a more typical red color of ∼ 2.0 as the activity of the comet increases. No substantial change in the shape of the phase curve could be discerned between 2014 August and 2015 February 19–23 when the comet increased considerably in activity. The phase curve behavior on the illuminated side of the comet and the dark side is in general similar. A comparison of our phase curve with a recent phase curve for 67P by Bertini et al. for the phase angle range ∼15°–80° where our two reductions overlap, shows good agreement (as does our color ratio between the 612.6 nm and the 375 nm filters) despite the fact that the two phase curve determinations observed the comet at different dust activity levels, at different distances from the nucleus and used completely different observing and data reduction methodologies. Trial scattering calculations demonstrate that the observed strong backscattering most likely arises from particles in the size range 1–20 µm. Our observed backscattering phase curve gives no constraints on the real index of refraction, the particle size distribution or the minimum and maximum particle size cut-offs. However, an upper limit to the imaginary index of refraction of ∼0.01 was required, making these particles quite transparent. Simple spherical scattering calculations including particle size distributions can fit the general characteristics of the phase curve but cannot produce a satisfactory detailed fit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-276
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Jul 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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