The organic composition of Comet C/2000 WM1 (LINEAR) revealed through infrared spectroscopy

Yana L. Radeva, Michael J. Mumma, Boncho P. Bonev, Michael A. DiSanti, Geronimo L. Villanueva, Karen Magee-Sauer, Erika L. Gibb, Harold A. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


We investigated the parent volatile composition of the Oort cloud Comet C/2000 WM1 (LINEAR) on 23-25 November 2001, using the Near Infrared Echelle Spectrograph on the Keck II telescope. Flux-calibrated spectra, absolute production rates, and mixing ratios are presented for H2O, HCN, CH4, C2H2, C2H6, H2CO, CH3OH and CO. Compared with "organics-normal" comets, WM1 is moderately depleted in HCN, CH4 and CH3OH, and is even more depleted in C2H2 and CO. Its composition is thus intermediate to comets that are severely depleted in their organic volatile composition and those that exhibit "normal" organic volatile abundances. We argue that WM1 may have formed closer to the young Sun than "organics-normal" comets, but at greater distance than the severely depleted comets, before its ejection to the Oort cloud. The mixing ratios of the above-listed organic volatiles agree day-by-day for 23-25 November 2001. Thus, there is no evidence of macroscopic heterogeneity in chemistry of this comet's nucleus at the achieved measurement accuracy. As the first comet to show moderate organic depletion in parent volatiles, WM1 represents an important addition to the emerging taxonomic classification based on chemical composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)764-777
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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