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The volatile composition of the inner coma of comet 46P/Wirtanen : coordinated observations using iSHELL at the NASA-IRTF and Keck/NIRSPEC-2

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posted on 2023-08-05, 13:16 authored by Nathan X. Roth, Boncho BonevBoncho Bonev, Michael A. DiSanti, Neil Dello Russo, Adam McKay, Erika L. Gibb, Mohammad Saki, Younas Khan, Ronald J. Vervack, Jr., Hideyo Kawakita, Anita L. Cochran, Nicolas Biver, Martin A. Cordiner, Jacques Crovisier, Emmanuël Jehin, Harold Weaver

The 2018 perihelion passage of comet 46P/Wirtanen afforded an opportunity to measure the abundances and spatial distributions of coma volatiles in a Jupiter-family comet with exceptional spatial resolution for several weeks surrounding its closest approach to Earth (Δmin ∼0.078 au on UT December 16). We conducted near-infrared spectroscopic observations of 46P/Wirtanen using iSHELL at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on UT 2018 December 18 in direct coordination with observations using the newly upgraded NIRSPEC-2 instrument at the W. M. Keck Observatory, and securely detected fluorescent emission from CH3OH, C2H6, and H2O. This coordinated campaign utilizing the two premier near-infrared facilities in the northern hemisphere enabled us to sample distinct projections of the coma into the plane of the sky simultaneously, and provided an unprecedented view into the inner coma of 46P/Wirtanen near closest approach. We report rotational temperatures, production rates, and abundance ratios (i.e., mixing ratios) for all sampled species and compare our iSHELL results to simultaneous (or near-simultaneous) measurements taken with NIRSPEC-2. We demonstrate the extraordinary synergy of coordinated measurements using iSHELL and NIRSPEC-2, and advocate for future cometary studies that jointly leverage the capabilities of these two facilities.



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Planetary Science Journal, Volume 2, Issue 2, April 2021, Article number abd706/54.


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