Physical studies of 81P/Wild 2 from the last two apparitions

Z. Y. Lin, L. M. Lara, J. B. Vincent, W. H. Ip

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Context. We downloaded data for the comet 81P/Wild 2 for May and June 2004 from the ESO archive and monitored this comet from January to August 2010 during its 6th perihelion passage since its discovery in 1978. Photometric data were used to monitor the comet's gas and dust activity as a function of heliocentric distance. Non-photometric data were used for an analysis of the evolution of the dust coma morphology. Aims. The goal of the analysis of the observational data was to characterize the evolution of the cometary activity as the nucleus approaches the Sun. We also aimed to assess the gas and dust production rates for the last two apparitions and investigated the evolution of the dust coma morphology during the last passage in 2010. Methods. The long-slit spectra data were acquired with the EFOSC2 instrument mounted at the 3.6. m ESO telescope in Chile, while narrowband and broadband images were obtained using the 1-m telescope at the Lulin Observatory in Taiwan. Image enhancing techniques were used to investigate the evolution of the dust coma morphology in the R-broadband images, and we modeled the evolution of these dust jets. Where possible, we studied the dust and gas production rate, and the radial profiles of the dust brightness in the Sun-anti-sunward directions. Results.The morphological analysis helped us to detect the jet structures in the dust coma by using the Larson-Sekanian filter. In May 2004, only one feature had been found on the sunward side. In 2010, one of the jet features had been switched-off after January, and at least four new jets were found from April to May. The physical properties show an average reddening between 4420 Å and 6840 Å of 8.4% per 1000 Å and the average resulting log of the C 2-to-CN production rate ratio is-0.454 ± 0.13, which would placeWild 2 in the "depleted" category according to the taxonomic classification. The slope of the radial dependence of the gas production rates for CN and C 2 is very consistent with observations of many other Jupiter-family comets. The slopes of the surface brightness lie between 0.98 and 1.38 in the images taken at the Lulin observatory, whose the range interval from 2000 km to 30 000 km is roughly consistent with the p -1 law. However, the gradient of the radial profile in the sunward direction in the outer region (4.0≤ log p(km) ≤ 4.5) is slightly steeper than that in the inner region (3.3≤ log p(km) ≤ 4.0).

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA101
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 2012


  • Comets: individual: 81P/Wild 2


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