A search for variation in the H2O ortho-para ratio and rotational temperature in the inner coma of comet C/2004 Q2 (Machholz)

Boncho P. Bonev, Michael J. Mumma, Geronimo L. Villanueva, Michael A. Disanti, Richard S. Ellis, Karen Magee-Sauer, Neil Dello Russo

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Abstract

We present spatially resolved measurements of the rotational temperature and ortho-para ratio for H2O in the inner coma of the Oort Cloud comet C/2004 Q2 (Machholz). Our results are based on direct simultaneous detections of ortho-H2O and para-H2O via "hot-band" fluorescence near 2.9 μm. We find a well-defined decline in rotational temperature with increasing nucleocentric distance (up to ∼1000 km). The ortho-para ratio remains constant (within stochastic uncertainty) with increasing nucleocentric distance and is close to the statistical equilibrium value of 3.0 (2.86 ± 0.06 [0.17], including, respectively, stochastic [systematic] uncertainty), resulting in spin temperature Tspin ≥ 34 K. We compare the present results with those reported for other comets and discuss the difficulties in interpreting spin temperatures deduced from measured ortho-para ratios. Improved understanding of the special conditions that enable nuclear spin conversion would test the extent to which derived spin temperatures reflect the formative history or the processing record of cometary ices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L97-L100
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume661
Issue number1 II
DOIs
StatePublished - May 20 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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