Ground-based optical and spitzer infrared imaging observations of comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner

Jana Pittichová, Charles E. Woodward, Michael S. Kelley, William T. Reach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


We present ground-based optical and Spitzer Space Telescope infrared (IR) imaging observations of the ecliptic (Jupiter-family) comet 21P/Giacobini- Zinner, the parent body of the Draconid meteor stream, during its 2005 apparition. The onset of nucleus activity occurred at a pre-perihelion heliocentric distance, rh ≃ 3.80 AU, while post-perihelion 21P was dusty (peak Afρ = 131 cm-1) and active out to heliocentric distances ≳3.3 AU following a logarithmic slope with rh of -2.04. Coma colors, V - R = 0.524 0.003, R - I = 0.487 0.004, are redder than solar, yet comparable to colors derived for other Jupiter-family comets. A nucleus radius of 1.82 0.05 km is derived from photometry at quiescence. Spitzer images post-perihelion exhibit an extensive coma with a prominent dust tail, where excess emission (over the dust continuum) in the 4.5 μm Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) image arises from volatile gaseous CO and/or CO2. No dust trail was detected (3σ surface brightness upper limit of 0.3 MJy sr-1 pixel-1) along the projected velocity vector of comet 21P in the MIPS 24 μm image suggesting that the number density of trail particles is ≲7 × 10-11 m-3. The bolometric albedo of 21P derived from the contemporaneous optical and Spitzer observations is A(θ = 22°) = 0.11, slightly lower than values derived for other comets at the same phase angle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1127-1136
Number of pages10
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008


  • Comets: individual (21P/Giacobini-Zinner)
  • Infrared: solar system
  • Meteors, meteoroids

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Ground-based optical and spitzer infrared imaging observations of comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this