The Spatial Distribution Of OH And CN Radicals In The Coma Of Comet Encke

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Ihalawela, Chandrasiri A.
Pierce, Donna M.
Dorman, Garrett R.
Cochran, Anita L.

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Multiple potential parent species have been proposed to explain CN abundances in comet comae, but the parent has not been definitively identified for all comets. This study examines the spatial distribution of CN radicals in the coma of comet Encke and determines the likelihood that CN is a photodissociative daughter of HCN in the coma. Comet Encke is the shortest orbital period (3.3 years) comet known and also has a low dust-to-gas ratio based on optical observations. Observations of CN were obtained from 2003 October 22 to 24, using the 2.7 m telescope at McDonald Observatory. To determine the parent of CN, the classical vectorial model was modified by using a cone shape in order to reproduce Encke's highly aspherical and asymmetric coma. To test the robustness of the modified model, the spatial distribution of OH was also modeled. This also allowed us to obtain CN/OH ratios in the coma. Overall, we find the CN/OH ratio to be 0.009 +/- 0.004. The results are consistent with HCN being the photodissociative parent of CN, but we cannot completely rule out other possible parents such as CH(3)CN and HC(3)N. We also found that the fan-like feature spans similar to 90 degrees, consistent with the results of Woodney et al..


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Ihalawela, Chandrasiri A., Donna M. Pierce, Garrett R. Dorman, and Anita L. Cochran. "The spatial distribution of OH and CN radicals in the coma of Comet Encke." The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 741, No. 2 (Nov., 2011): 89.