The nucleus of Comet C/2001 A2 (LINEAR) split several times during its recent apparition, presenting an unusual opportunity to search for chemical differences in freshly exposed material. We conducted this search using NIRSPEC at the W.M. Keck Observatory on four dates in 2001: 9.5 and 10.5 July and 4.4 and 10.5 August. We detected the R0 and R1 lines of the ν3 vibrational band of CH4 near 3.3 μm on all dates. The R2 line was detected on 4.4 and 10.5 August. When we compare production rates of CH4 to H2O, we find evidence of a significant enhancement in August relative to that found in July. H2CO was securely detected via its ν1 and ν5 bands on 9.5 July. On 10.5 July, H2CO emission was much weaker, and its mixing ratio had dropped by a factor of about four. The mixing ratios for other detected volatile species did not change significantly over the course of the observations. We discuss the implications of this evidence for chemical heterogeneity in the nucleus of Comet C/2001 A2.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science