A Spitzer study of comets 2P/ENCKE, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and C/2001 HT50 (LINEAR-NEAT)

Michael S. Kelley, Charles E. Woodward, David E. Harker, Diane H. Wooden, Robert D. Gehrz, Humberto Campins, Martha S. Hanner, Susan M. Lederer, David J. Osip, Jana Pittichová, Elisha Polomski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations

Abstract

We present infrared images and spectra of comets 2P/Encke, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and C/2001 HT50 (LINEAR-NEAT) as part of a larger program to observe comets inside of 5 AU from the Sun with the Spitzer Space Telescope. The nucleus of comet 2P/Encke was observed at two vastly different phase angles (20° and 63°). Model fits to the spectral energy distributions of the nucleus suggest that comet Encke's infrared beaming parameter derived from the near-Earth asteroid thermal model may have a phase angle dependence. The observed emission from comet Encke's dust coma is best modeled using predominately amorphous carbon grains with a grain size distribution that peaks near 0.4 μm, and the silicate contribution by mass to the submicron dust coma is constrained to <31%. Comet 67P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko was observed with distinct coma emission in excess of a model nucleus at a heliocentric distance of 5.0 AU. The coma detection suggests that sublimation processes are still active or grains from recent activity remain near the nucleus. Comet C/2001 HT50 (LINEAR-NEAT) showed evidence for crystalline silicates in the spectrum obtained at 3.2 AU, and we derive a silicate-to-carbon dust ratio of 0.6. The ratio is an order of magnitude lower than that derived for comets 9P/Tempel 1 during the Deep Impact encounter and C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1256-1271
Number of pages16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume651
Issue number2 I
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 10 2006

Keywords

  • Comets: individual (2P/Encke, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, C/2001 HT50 (LINEAR-NEAT))
  • Infrared: solar system

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