AR 14294 (Archival Research)

Mon Jul 15 05:03:01 GMT 2024

Principal Investigator: Yanga Fernandez
PI Institution: University of Central Florida Board of Trustees
Investigators (xml)

Title: Characterizing Outbursts and Nucleus Properties of Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1
Cycle: 23

Today's comets are remnant bodies leftover from the era of planet formation in our own Solar System. Therefore characterizing cometary structure and composition can give clues to the thermal, physical, and chemical environment of the protoplanetary disk. However before this long-term 'holy grail' of planetary astronomy can be achieved, we must understand cometary evolution so that we can know how comets have changed since their formation. The phenomenon of cometary activity, where a porous matrix of icy and rocky material turns into the gases and the dust grains we see in a comet's coma, remains a poorly-understood puzzle of short-term cometary evolution. We are in the midst of an ongoing project to understand cometary activity in a particular comet, 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1, by taking advantage of existing imaging datasets that show the comet in outburst. Outbursts are useful for constraining the nucleus's spin state and the location of active areas. We propose here to analyze archival WFPC2 images of comet 29P obtained in March 1996 (Cycle 5, Project 5829), spanning 21 hours, that show the comet in outburst. These data are the highest-resolution imaging of this comet ever obtained while it was in outburst. We will analyze the morphology of the comet's dust coma to constrain properties of the nucleus and of the dust grains themselves. Additionally, we will analyze images taken in May 2000 (Cycle 8, Project 8274) that show the comet at its steady-state level of activity but may also allow us to place further constraints on the nucleus's active regions.