The organic volatile composition of Oort cloud comets: Evidence for chemical diversity in the giant-planets' nebular region

M. J. Mumma, M. A. DiSanti, N. Dello Russo, Karen Magee-Sauer, E. Gibb, R. Novak

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Organic volatiles and water in eight Oort cloud comets were investigated at infrared wavelengths. The detected species include H 2 O, CO, CH 3 OH, CH 4 , C 2 H 2 , C 2 H 6 , OCS, HCN, NH 3 , and H 2 CO. Several daughter fragments (CN, OH, NH 2 , etc.) are also measured. OH prompt emission provides a useful proxy for water. Long-slit spectra are taken at high spectral dispersion and high spatial resolution, eliminating several sources of systematic error. The resulting parent volatile production rates are highly robust, permitting a sensitive search for compositional diversity among comets. Here, seven OC comets are compared. Six (including Halley) exhibit similar compositions (excepting CO). Their low formation temperatures (∼ 30K) suggest this group probably formed beyond 30 AU from the young sun. However, C/1999 S4 is severely depleted in hypervolatiles and also in methanol, and it likely formed near 5 - 10 AU. C/2001 A2 is discussed briefly to illustrate future prospects.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)753-762
    Number of pages10
    JournalEuropean Space Agency, (Special Publication) ESA SP
    Issue number500
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2002

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Aerospace Engineering
    • Space and Planetary Science

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