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S. Wyckoff, R. Heyd, R. Fox, A. Smith (ASU)
Comparable orbital elements indicated that the nuclei of comets Tabur(C/1996 Q1)and Liller(C/1988 A1) arose from a common nucleus that split during a previous solar passage. The secondary component of this split pair, Tabur, exhibited variability and color peculiarties during perihelion approach in September 1996 (Schulz and Tozzi, IAUC 6476; Turner and Smith 1999 AJ, 118, 3039). About two weeks prior to perihelion passage (Nov 3.5, 1996) the brightness of Tabur faded abruptly. Analysis of R-band images taken a few days before perihelion led Fulle et al (1998 Icarus 134, 235) to suggest that the nucleus of Tabur became deactivated due to mantle formation, seasonal effects or ice depletion. Spectra obtained with the NOAO 2.1-m and Steward Observatory 2.3-m telescopes in September and October indicate a normal coma composition. Our direct CCD images obtained in early October with the NOAO 0.9-m telescope indicate a peculiar triangular shaped coma with the vertex pointing in the anti-solar direction and base distended in a position angle of roughly 30-210 degrees. Our observations indicate that the nucleus of Tabur probably fragmented on or before October 7, and dissipated over the next several weeks prior to perihelion.