The composition of fragments C and B of the Jupiter-family comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (SW3) was investigated in early April of 2006 at IR wavelengths using high-dispersion echelle spectroscopy. Both fragments were depleted in ethane, and C was depleted in most forms of volatile carbon. In particular, fragment C shows a severe depletion of CH3OH but a "normal" abundance of HCN (which has a similar volatility). Thermal processing is a possible explanation, but since fragment B is perhaps sublimating fresher material because of the frequent outbursts and fragmentation, the observed depletions might have cosmogonic implications. The chemistry of the volatile ices in SW3, like in the Oort Cloud comet C/1999 S4 (LINEAR), may be associated with sublimation of icy mantles from precometary grains followed by subsequent gas-phase chemistry and recondensation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science