EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 494, Number 1, January IV 2009
Page(s) 379 - 389
Section Planets and planetary systems
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20079225
Published online 22 December 2008
A&A 494, 379-389 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20079225

The rotation and coma profiles of comet C/2004 Q2 (Machholz)

M. Reyniers1, 2, P. Degroote2, D. Bodewits3, 4, J. Cuypers5, and C. Waelkens2

1  Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, Observations Department, Ringlaan 3, 1180 Brussels, Belgium
    e-mail: maarten.reyniers@kmi-irm.be
2  Institute of Astronomy, Department of Physics and Astronomy, K.U. Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200D, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
    e-mail: pieter.degroote@ster.kuleuven.be
3  KVI Atomic Physics, University of Groningen, Zernikelaan 25, 9747AA Groningen, The Netherlands
4  NASA Postdoctoral Fellow, Goddard Space Flight Center, Solar System Exploration Division, Mailstop 693, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
    e-mail: dennis.bodewits@ssedmail.gsfc.nasa.gov
5  Royal Observatory of Belgium, Ringlaan 3, 1180 Brussels, Belgium
    e-mail: jan.cuypers@oma.be

Received 10 December 2007 / Accepted 14 November 2008

Aims. Rotation periods of cometary nuclei are scarce, though important when studying the nature and origin of these objects. Our aim is to derive a rotation period for the nucleus of comet C/2004 Q2 (Machholz).
Methods. C/2004 Q2 (Machholz) was monitored using the Merope CCD camera on the Mercator telescope at La Palma, Spain, in January 2005, during its closest approach to Earth, implying a high spatial resolution (50 km per pixel). One hundred seventy images were recorded in three different photometric broadband filters, two blue ones (Geneva U and B) and one red (Cousins I). Magnitudes for the comet's optocentre were derived with very small apertures to isolate the contribution of the nucleus to the bright coma, including correction for the seeing. Our CCD photometry also permitted us to study the coma profile of the inner coma in the different bands.
Results. A rotation period for the nucleus of $P=9.1\pm0.2$ h was derived. The period is on the short side compared to published periods of other comets, but still shorter periods are known. Nevertheless, comparing our results with images obtained in the narrowband CN filter, the possibility that our method sampled P/2 instead of P cannot be excluded. Coma profiles are also presented, and a terminal ejection velocity of the grains $v_{\rm gr}=1609\pm48$ m s-1 is found from the continuum profile in the I band.

Key words: comets: general -- comets: individual: C/2004 Q2 (Machholz)

© ESO 2009