67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. A Single Body That’s Been Stretched- Part 22

(Section 1 of a sub series building evidence for the head lobe stretching prior to shearing). 


Yellow- crater left by slab A.

Orange- crater left by slab B.

Green- slab A extension .

Red- triangle of relatively undisturbed craters.

Mauve- single mauve dot is an isolated match, first noted in Part 6. The head lobe match to it is just off-frame above it.

Faint terracotta- shear line up to the beginning of slab A.


At the end of Part 20 there was a mention about new evidence for the head lobe stretching even prior to shearing itself from the body. Apart from a tentative reference to this possibility in Part 8, there has been scant evidence for it so far. Therefore, the assumption has been that all the action regarding stretch happened after the ‘unzipping’ along the shear line and was concentrated in the growing neck, not in the head (or body) lobe. Now there seems to be evidence for the head stretching. This would mean head stretch happening before any shearing had occurred or alternatively, after some but not all shearing had occurred.

I’ve tried to write up this evidence in one post but there are half a dozen concepts introduced all at once. This makes it difficult to emphasise which elements are the most important. Since some of these elements deserve posts in their own right and were sitting in the queue, I’ve decided to introduce some of them individually over the next few posts. However, they should now be considered as linked into a sub-series leading up to the head lobe stretch evidence. Whereas before, these posts would have been interesting discoveries in themselves, each adding to the general evidence for stretching in general, they will now all be adduced as evidence when the final post in the sub series is posted. The sub series will total three or four posts at least and this post on the slab A extension is the first of them.


The header photo shows a part of the body lobe which exhibits a somewhat different morphology from the neighbouring areas. This is proposed to be the extension to missing slab A (see Part 9 for missing slabs A and B). It’s dubbed the ‘slab A extension’ rather than ‘missing slab A extension’ which is more correct but a little ponderous.

It’s characterised as an extension because the curved part of its rim is exactly in line with the back curve of slab A’s residual crater. If anything, the right hand side of the slab A crater (as viewed in the header) could be described as being the geometric element that departs suddenly from this majestic arc along the back. So the continuous arc from slab A to its extension suggests a common mechanism for their appearance. The arc itself maintains a steady radius all the way before doubling back suddenly at 90° on the right hand side of the extension. After this remarkably sudden turn, the perimeter line follows a remarkably straight line all the way to the isolated, match point that was cited in Part 6 (mauve dot).

It’s hypothesised here that this area lost surface material at the same time that slab A (and slab B) departed but did so in a slightly different manner. It appears that it wasn’t a clean break of a monolithic slab but a crumbling away of a thinner layer of surface material. While slabs A and B might be likened to thick slabs of plaster that have blown from an old wall, the slab A extension could be likened to a thick layer of paint crumbling off the same plaster surface in large flakes, perhaps taking small lumps of the plaster surface with it, but not dislodging the main layer from the wall like slab A. So the plaster remained in place but its surface looks very roughed-up, almost scoured, by the flaking process.

The reasoning behind this is that there are features such as craters and ridges that are still apparent on the surface of the proposed extension. It’s as if the surface has been flayed: the vestigial craters have had their rims smoothed over whereas, in the adjacent area the crater rims are very defined (these adjacent craters are to the right in the header photo). Whilst the craters appear smoothed over, the hard ridges have resisted being smoothed resulting in jagged, saw-tooth lines and isolated ‘pimples’. Here’s a close-up view.

Photo 2 

 Yellow- rim of crater left by missing slab A.

Green- the slab A extension. This continues only a small distance to the right, off-frame, before meeting the yellow-dotted crater rim.

Mauve- the isolated match.

Blue- saw-tooth line of a ridge (dots are to the right of each tooth so as not to obscure them). Also, isolated pimples (centre of frame). The pimples are more noticeable and more numerous in other photos with more oblique lighting angles.

Orange- a section that has collapsed in as a result of being on the edge of the extension. At first glance, it would appear that the green dots should follow the small, vertical cliff at the back of this section but the surface of the slumped portion can be seen to be pristine, not scalped and it has matches to the small cliff. The green line in this photo follows the same smooth arc as in the header, whereas if we included the orange-dotted area, we’d introduce a noticeable bump in the curve. Moreover, all terrain to the viewers side of the green dots looks decidedly more scalped and scree-strewn. The slumped orange area is whited-out in the header photo. It’s below the green dotted line in that picture.

If a monolithic slab had departed from the extension in the same manner as slab A, then it would have been 50-70 metres thick and taken all these vestigial craters and ridges with it on its surface. In that case, we would see a fracture plane left behind, flat like the remaining slab A crater, or resembling riven rock like the less obvious slab B crater.

So the slab A extension is characterised by the appearance of having been flayed or scalped. That’s just an analogy- it’s not suggested that something was actually dragged over it. But somehow that thin surface layer flaked away resulting in some smoothed-over terrain, some jagged terrain and lots of scree.

To the left of the extension in the header photo, we see the crater that remained after slab A departed (yellow dots). To the right, we see the area of apparently undisturbed craters, mentioned above, which extend across to the sharp ‘drop’ away to the Anubis region (red dots). This cratered area forms a thin triangle with the apex pointing towards the bottom-right of the frame and the short base running from the isolated match point to the Anubis drop-away. The base is contiguous with the shear line.

Below the slab A extension we see the relatively smooth, dusty region of Ash. Ash seems to be quite undisturbed as well, at least when compared to all the upheaval of the shear line and missing slabs occurring above it.

You may have noticed how the regional name for the area comprising the features in this post has been avoided thus far. The name is Seth and it’s actually not very instructive to use it for describing anything to do with the extension, or slab A, or the triangle of undisturbed craters.
The naming of regions was supposed to designate names to morphologically similar regions. What constitutes ‘morphologically similar’ is highly subjective, especially when going by appearances alone and not invoking mechanisms for how they differ. Also, the ESA people who did the naming couldn’t keep sub-dividing areas if sections within them looked slightly different. All in all, they struck a good optimum but Seth perhaps suffered from this process.

Seth has these three regions of differing appearance which were most likely subjected to subtly different processes to arrive at their present-day form: slab A, the extension and the long triangle. These different processes or mechanisms will eventually be adduced as the smoking gun for head stretch before shearing.

So we should try to forget about relating these areas to Seth. The Seth borders tacitly imply one morphology with one unknown, causal mechanism. These three areas should be seen as separate mini regions for our purposes in future posts in this sub series. The annotated photos are the best guide for delineating these regions and their morphology as related to the causal mechanisms suggested in those future posts.

The slab A mechanism has already been described in Part 9 and elaborated on in Part 14. The mechanism for the red triangle staying intact will get an airing. As for the slab A extension mechanism, it’s a work in progress. Although it’s likely to have been subject to much the same process as slabs A and B, there has to be more to it. Future posts will shed some light on it but it may remain partially unanswered.


Although the slab A extension is an interesting feature in its own right and deserved its own post, the take-home message from this post as regards the sub series and the evidence for head lobe stretch before shearing, should be emphasised here: it’s that sudden 90° turn at the end of the extension’s arc and the very straight run up to the Part 6 match.


Copyright ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

To view a copy of this licence please visit:

All dotted annotations by scute1133.


2 thoughts on “67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. A Single Body That’s Been Stretched- Part 22

  1. You say “So the slab A extension is characterised by the appearance of having been flayed or scalped. That’s just an analogy- it’s not suggested that something was actually dragged over it.”

    You’re not specifically suggesting that something was dragged over slab A extension, but right next door, a large slab has been lifted in microgravity. Rotation, and the movement of the site A monoliths suggest that slab A would have only slowly lifted with the head lobe and would have moved in the relative direction of the extension. Being so close to the axis of rotation, most of the momentum would have been given by the head lift, but it may be plausible that it bounced and scraped on the extension, perhaps suggesting that something may have been dragged over it after all. Of course, escape velocity for the slab would not have been automatic at this point, but it is worth a thought.


    • You do have a point. Actually, the rim of the slab A crater and two more ‘ridges’ within the extension show evidence of not actually being ridges but vast, folded-over sheets. The direction of the overhangs is in line with the rotation plane (backwards along it). They remind me of the folds you may see at the top of a metal chisel that’s been used for years- folded in a smooth curve like a breaking wave, splayed out and torn at the tips. Copper mallets also display this feature.

      Perhaps slab A did start off suborbital and scrape backwards down the rotation plane before being kicked to a higher tangential velocity by being further down the Y axis and so further from the rotation axis.

      However, it should be said that all parts of the slab A crater rim display such folds, even towards the opposite side. And this hypothesised dragging would be seen to peter out at the far end of the extension or at least not stop in such a straight line leading up to the mauve dot. Therefore, I think dragging could be invoked for the folds in the extension, near to the slab A crater but I don’t think it works for the extension as a whole.

      But yes, when I said it was just an analogy and not actually suggested, I have to say that I was thinking that there may have been some sort of dragging/flaying. But for the purposes of the extension, especially its well-defined perimeter, I couldn’t see how this mechanism could be a large part of the extension’s story.

      One hybrid possibility is that slab A split in two down the middle (or into 3 or 10- it doesn’t matter so long as it detached and escaped) and one piece dragged over the extension folds. Any chaotic movement could have caused it to catch an edge like a pole vaulter’s pole, up-end and escape. The upending would introduce rotation and allow it to clear the red triangle while being given extra tangential speed to make up for losing some momentum to angular momentum. We can never know such fine details of course, but these are all possibilities that show the bigger picture as being plausible.

      Another point against drag is that rocks A and B maintained their configuration over 170 metres. Seeing as we know rock A’s excursion is an unassailable fact, it means that it couldn’t have been dragged and rolled over the slab A crater on the underside of slab A. And of course, there would be more detritus/scrape marks on the crater too. Seeing as there is so little scree and boulders resulting from the slab A departure, I think it must have been plucked very cleanly away.

      By the way, I believe the folds would droop whichever way, under gravity without the help of dragging, like the torn crater rims along the top edge of Anubis. But seeing as they are all folded the same way on that side of the slab A crater, it does seem possible that there was a drag element.

      Thomas et al (Jan 2015) cites other such folds around Seth and invokes gravity alone and a 20 pascal tensile resistance derived from observing the folds if I remember correctly. It may have been 20-40 pa.

      Anyway, I wouldn’t be averse to some dragging in the extension but it doesn’t explain the neat edges.

      I wouldn’t mind betting this discussion will be remembered and elements plucked from it in the future when they are seen to fit perfectly into a bigger picture. As I keep saying, the evidence is staring right at us. There are specific features that I have passed over hundreds of times, knowing they tell a story. It’s taken 9 months in some cases before two or three come together to tell that story. In isolation and in the absence of thinking in terms of stretch, they are all just so many bumps, dips and boulders.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s