Volume 589, May 2016
|Number of page(s)||12|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||04 April 2016|
Long-term activity and outburst of comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) from narrow-band photometry and long-slit spectroscopy⋆
Institut d’Astrophysique et Géophysique, Université de Liège,
allée du 6 Août 17,
2 CNRS – UTINAM UMR 6213, Avenue de l’Observatoire, 25000 Besançon, France
3 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London, London NW1 2PS, UK
4 European Space Agency – ESTEC Kerplerlaan 1, 2201 AZ Noordwijk, The Netherlands
Received: 23 October 2015
Accepted: 17 January 2016
We present a unique data set of more than one year’s worth of regular observations of comet C/2013 A1(Siding Spring) taken with TRAPPIST, along with low-resolution spectra obtained with the ESO/VLT FORS 2 instrument. The comet made a close approach to Mars on October 19, 2014, and was then observed by many space-borne and ground-based telescopes. We followed the evolution of the OH, NH, CN, C3, and C2 production rates as well as the Afρ parameter, a proxy for the dust production. We detected an outburst two weeks after perihelion, with gas and dust production rates increased by a factor of five within a few days. By modelling the shape of the CN and C2 radial profiles, we determined that the outburst happened on November 10 around 15:30 UT (±5 h) and measured a gas expansion velocity of 1.1 ± 0.2 km s-1. We used a thermal evolution model to reproduce the activity pattern and outburst. Our results are consistent with the progressive formation of a dust mantle explaining the shallow dependence of gas production rates, which may be partially blown off during the outburst. We studied the evolution of gas composition, using various ratios such as CN/OH, C2/OH, or C3/OH, which showed little or no variation with heliocentric distance, including at the time of the outburst. This indicates a relative level of homogeneity of the nucleus composition.
Key words: comets: general / comets: individual: C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) / techniques: spectroscopic / techniques: photometric
© ESO, 2016
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