A fully 3-dimensional thermal model of a comet nucleus

Eric D. Rosenberg, Dina Prialnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A 3-D numerical model of comet nuclei is presented. An implicit numerical scheme was developed for the thermal evolution of a spherical nucleus composed of a mixture of ice and dust. The model was tested against analytical solutions, simplified numerical solutions, and 1-D thermal evolution codes. The 3-D code was applied to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; surface temperature maps and the internal thermal structure was obtained as function of depth, longitude and hour angle. The effect of the spin axis tilt on the surface temperature distribution was studied in detail. It was found that for small tilt angles, relatively low temperatures may prevail on near-pole areas, despite lateral heat conduction. A high-resolution run for a comet model of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with low tilt angle, allowing for crystallization of amorphous ice, showed that the amorphous/crystalline ice boundary varies significantly with depth as a function of cometary latitude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-532
Number of pages10
JournalNew Astronomy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • 3-D numerical model
  • Comet nucleus
  • Thermal evolution


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