Short-term variability of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) at 4.8 AU from the Sun ⋆
Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía-CSIC Glorieta de la Astronomía s/n 18008 Granada Spain
Received: 3 November 2014
Accepted: 26 December 2014
Context. We observed comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) during six nights in February 2013 when it was at 4.8 AU from the Sun. At this distance and time the comet was not very active and it was theoretically possible to detect photometric variations likely due to the rotation of the cometary nucleus.
Aims. The goal of this work is to obtain differential photometry of the comet inner coma using different aperture radii in order to derive a possible rotational period.
Methods. Large field of view images were obtained with a 4 k × 4 k CCD at the f/3 0.77 m telescope of La Hita Observatory in Spain. Aperture photometry was performed in order to get relative magnitude variation versus time. Using calibrated star fields we also obtained ISON’s R-magnitudes versus time. We applied a Lomb-Scargle periodogram analysis to get possible periodicities for the observed brightness variations, directly related with the rotation of the cometary nucleus.
Results. The comet light curve obtained is very shallow, with a peak-to-peak amplitude of 0.03 ± 0.02 mag. A tentative synodic rotational period (single-peaked) of 14.4 ± 1.2 h for ISON’s nucleus is obtained from our analysis, but there are other possibilities. We studied the possible effect of the seeing variations in the obtained periodicities during the same night, and from night to night. These seeing variations had no effect on the derived periodicity. We discuss and interpret all possible solutions for the rotational period of ISON’s nucleus.
Key words: comets: individual: C/2012 S1 (ISON) / methods: observational / techniques: photometric / Oort Cloud
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