Dust modelling and a dynamical study of comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresak during its 2017 perihelion passage
Space Sciences, Technologies and Astrophysics Research (STAR) Institute, Université de Liège, 19C Allée du 6 Août, 4000 Liège, Belgium
2 Oukaimeden Observatory, High Energy Physics and Astrophysics Laboratory, Cadi Ayyad University, Marrakech, Morocco
3 European Southern Observatory, Alonso de Córdova, 3107 Vitacura, Santiago, Chile
Accepted: 21 April 2018
Context. Thanks to the Rosetta mission, our understanding of comets has greatly improved. A very good opportunity to apply this knowledge appeared in early 2017 with the appearance of the Jupiter family comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresak. The comet was only 0.15 au from the Earth as it passed through perihelion on April 12, 2017. We performed an observational campaign with the TRAPPIST telescopes that covered almost the entire period of time when the comet was active.
Aims. In this work we present a comprehensive study of the evolution of the dust environment of 41P based on observational data from January to July, 2017. In addition, we performed numerical simulations to constrain its origin and dynamical nature.
Methods. To model the observational data set we used a Monte Carlo dust tail model, which allowed us to derive the dust parameters that best describe its dust environment as a function of heliocentric distance: its dust production rate, the size distribution and ejection velocities of the dust particles, and its emission pattern. In order to study its dynamical evolution, we completed several experiments to evaluate the degree of stability of its orbit, its life time in its current region close to Earth, and its future behaviour.
Results. From the dust analysis, we found that comet 41P is a dust-poor comet compared to other comets of the same family, with a complex emission pattern that shifted from full isotropic to anisotropic ejection sometime during February 24–March 14 in 2017, and then from anisotropic to full isotropic again between June 7 and 28. During the anisotropic period, the emission was controlled by two strongly active areas, where one was located in the southern and one in the northern hemisphere of the nucleus. The total dust mass loss is estimated to be ~7.5 × 108 kg. From the dynamical simulations we estimate that ~3600 yr is the period of time during which 41P will remain in a similar orbit. Taking into account the estimated mass loss per orbit, after 3600 yr, the nucleus may lose about 30% of its mass. However, based on its observed dust-to-water mass ratio and its propensity to outbursts, the lifetime of this comet could be much shorter.
Key words: methods: observational / methods: numerical / comets: general / comets: individual: 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresak
© ESO 2018