Volume 573, January 2015
|Number of page(s)||11|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||08 December 2014|
Institut d’Astrophysique, de Géophysique et Océanographie, Université de
Allée du 6 août 17,
2 University of Franche-Comté, Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers THETA, Institut UTINAM – UMR CNRS 6213, BP 1615, 25010 Besançon Cedex, France
3 Space Physics Laboratory, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, 695 022 Trivandrum, India
4 Department of Physics, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK
Received: 14 June 2014
Accepted: 19 September 2014
Aims. We study the formation of the [OI] lines – that is, 5577.339 Å (the green line), 6300.304 Å and 6363.776 Å (the two red lines) – in the coma of comets and determine the parent species of the oxygen atoms using the ratio of the green-to-red-doublet emission intensity, I5577/(I6300 + I6364), (hereafter the G/R ratio) and the line velocity widths.
Methods. We acquired high-resolution spectroscopic observations at the ESO Very Large Telescope of comets C/2002 T7 (LINEAR), 73P-C/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, 8P/Tuttle, and 103P/Hartley 2 when they were close to Earth (<0.6 au). Using the observed spectra, which have a high spatial resolution (<60 km/pixel), we determined the intensities and widths of the three [OI] lines. We spatially extracted the spectra to achieve the best possible resolution of about 1−2′′, that is, nucleocentric projected distances of 100 to 400 km depending on the geocentric distance of the comet. We decontaminated the [OI] green line from C2 lines blends that we identified.
Results. The observed G/R ratio in all four comets varies as a function of nucleocentric projected distance (between ~0.25 to ~0.05 within 1000 km). This is mainly due to the collisional quenching of O(1S) and O(1D) by water molecules in the inner coma. The observed green emission line width is about 2.5 km s-1 and decreases as the distance from the nucleus increases, which can be explained by the varying contribution of CO2 to the O(1S) production in the innermost coma. The photodissociation of CO2 molecules seem to produce O(1S) closer to the nucleus, while the water molecule forms all the O(1S) and O(1D) atoms beyond 103 km. Thus we conclude that the main parent species producing O(1S) and O(1D) in the inner coma is not always the same. The observations have been interpreted in the framework of the previously described coupled-chemistry-emission model, and the upper limits of the relative abundances of CO2 were derived from the observed G/R ratios. Measuring the [OI] lines might provide a new way to determine the CO2 relative abundance in comets.
Key words: molecular processes / techniques: spectroscopic / line: formation / atomic processes / line: profiles / comets: general
Based on observations made with ESO Telescope at the La Silla Paranal Observatory under programs ID 073.C-0525, 277.C-5016, 080.C-0615 and 086.C-0958.
Tables 3 and 4 are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2014
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