SOFIA INFRARED SPECTROPHOTOMETRY of COMET C/2012 K1 (PAN-STARRS)

Charles E. Woodward, Michael S P Kelley, David E. Harker, Erin L. Ryan, Diane H. Wooden, Michael L. Sitko, Ray W. Russell, William T. Reach, Imke De Pater, Ludmilla Kolokolova, Robert D. Gehrz

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    7 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    We present pre-perihelion infrared 8-31 μm spectrophotometric and imaging observations of comet C/2012 K1 (Pan-STARRS), a dynamically new Oort Cloud comet, conducted with NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy facility (+FORCAST) in 2014 June. As a "new" comet (first inner solar system passage), the coma grain population may be extremely pristine, unencumbered by a rime and insufficiently irradiated by the Sun to carbonize its surface organics. The comet exhibited a weak 10 μm silicate feature ≃1.18 ± 0.03 above the underlying best-fit 215.32 ± 0.95 K continuum blackbody. Thermal modeling of the observed spectral energy distribution indicates that the coma grains are fractally solid with a porosity factor D = 3 and the peak in the grain size distribution, apeak = 0.6 μm, large. The sub-micron coma grains are dominated by amorphous carbon, with a silicate-to-carbon ratio of . The silicate crystalline mass fraction is , similar to with other dynamically new comets exhibiting weak 10 μm silicate features. The bolometric dust albedo of the coma dust is 0.14 ± 0.01 at a phase angle of 34.° 76, and the average dust production rate, corrected to zero phase, at the epoch of our observations was Afρ ≃ 5340 cm.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number181
    JournalAstrophysical Journal
    Volume809
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Aug 20 2015

    Keywords

    • comets: general
    • comets: individual (C/2012 K1 Pan-STARRS)
    • dust, extinction

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