Evidence for methane and ammonia in the coma of comet P/Halley.

M. Allen, M. Delitsky, W. Huntress, Y. Yung, W. H. Ip, R. Schwenn, H. Rosenbauer, E. Shelley, H. Balsiger, J. Geiss

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Methane and ammonia abundances in the coma of Halley are derived from Giotto IMS data using an Eulerian model of chemical and physical processes inside the contact surface to simulate Giotto HIS ion mass spectral data for mass-to-charge ratios (m/q) from 15 to 19. The ratio m/q = 19/18 as a function of distance from the nucleus is not reproduced by a model for a pure water coma. It is necessary to include the presence of NH3, and uniquely NH3, in coma gases in order to explain the data. A ratio of production rates Q(NH3)/Q(H2O) = 0.01-0.02 results in model values approximating the Giotto data. Methane is identified as the most probable source of the distinct peak at m/q = 15. The observations are fit best with Q(CH4)/Q(H2O) = 0.02. The chemical composition of the comet nucleus implied by these production rate ratios is unlike that of the outer planets. On the other hand, there are also significant differences from observations of gas phase interstellar material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-512
Number of pages11
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 1987


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