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Outgassing of icy bodies in the solar system - I. The sublimation of hexagonal water ice through dust layers
Comets dust Comets dynamics Comets nucleus Ices
► Construction of a laboratory experiment to investigate the physical processes determining the actitvty of icy bodies in the solar system. ► Verification and calibration of theoretical models with experimental results. ► Investigation of the temperature dependent sublimation properties of hexagonal water ice and the gas diffusion through a dry dust layer covering the ice surface. ► Measurement of the reduction of the gas production rate due to an additional dust layer on top of the ice surface. ► Determination of the temperature dependence of the sublimation coefficient. ► Further investigations are planed, to measure the outgassing of ice-dust samples under irradiation. ► Development of a theoretical model, which describes the gas diffusion through dust layers. Abstract
Our knowledge about the physical processes determining the activity of comets were mainly influenced by several extremely successful space missions (Giotto, Deep Space I, Stardust, Deep Impact and EPOXI), the predictions of theoretical models and the results of laboratory experiments. However, novel computer models should not be treated in isolation but should be based on experimental results and should be verified and calibrated by experimental work. Therefore, a new experimental setup was constructed to investigate the temperature dependent sublimation properties of hexagonal water ice and the gas diffusion through a dry dust layer covering the ice surface. We show that this experimental setup is capable to reproduce known gas production rates of pure hexagonal water ice. The reduction of the gas production rate due to an additional dust layer on top of the ice surface was measured and compared to the results of another experimental setup in which the gas diffusion through dust layers at room temperature was investigated. We found that the relative permeability of the dust layer is inversely proportional to its thickness, which is also predicted by theoretical models. However, the measured absolute weakening of the gas flow was smaller than predicted by models. This lack of correspondence between model and experiment may be caused by an ill-determination of the boundary condition in the theoretical models, which further demonstrates the necessity of laboratory investigations. Furthermore, the impedance of the dust layer to the ice evaporation was found to be similar to the impedance at room temperature, which means that the temperature profile of the dust layer is not influencing the reduction of the gas production. Finally, we present the results of an extended investigation of the sublimation coefficient, which is an important factor for the description of the sublimation rate of water ice and, thus, an important value for thermophysical modeling of icy bodies in the solar system. The achieved results of this laboratory investigations demonstrate that experimental works are essential for the understanding of the origin of cometary activity.
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