DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 30. Comets III: Properties of Space Mission Targets
Oral, Chairs: D. E. Brownlee and B. J. R. Davidsson, Friday, September 5, 2003, 10:30am-12:00noon, DeAnza III

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[30.07] The debris trail and near-nucleus dust environment of the ROSETTA mission target 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

W.T. Reach (SIRTF Science Center/CalTech), M.D. Hicks, S. Gillam (JPL/Caltech), B. Bhattacharya (SIRTF Science Center/CalTech), M.S. Kelly (Univ of Minnesota), M.V. Sykes (Steward Observatory)

It is thought that most short-period comets are trailed by large (>mm sized) particles ejected from the nucleus and in the process of dynamical evolution along the comet's orbit through the influence of solar gravity and radiation pressure. The intersection of cometary debris trails with the orbit of Earth gives rise to meteor streams. Cometary debris trails where first discovered by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite[1] in thermal emission at mid-IR wavelengths and have only recently have been detected in reflected visible light [2,3].

The primary target of the ESA ROSETTA mission is the periodic comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (CG), which is known to have an IRAS dust trail. We have obtained several nights of deep imaging at the Palomar Mountain 60 and 200-inch telescopes in May/June 2003. Figure 1 clearly shows the dust trail of CG, which extends behind the comet several tens of arcminutes. We use the surface brightness profiles to characterize the particle size and mass fraction of dust in the trail as well as quantify the dust production in the near-nuclear environment. A more complete understanding of CG will be afforded by the planned 5-40 micron observations of the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), scheduled soon after launch in August 2003.

References: [1] Sykes & Walker (1992) Icarus, 95, 180. [2] Ishiguro et al. (2003) ApJ, 589 L101. [3] Weissman et al. (2003) LPS 34, 2056.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: hicksm@scn.jpl.nasa.gov

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.