36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 33 Comets: Comae
Poster II, Thursday, November 11, 2004, 4:15-7:00pm, Exhibition Hall 1A

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[33.14] A Study of Jet Morphology and Outburst Evolution in the Coma of Schwassmann-Wachmann 1

C.E. Ellis (UOR), Y.R. Fernandez (UH-IfA), L.M. Woodney (UCF)

We present results from a continuing project to study the physical and rotational behavior of the comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (SW-1). SW-1 is one of the most unusual comets known due to its orbit (at the edge of the Centaur region) and its activity behavior (with frequent stochastic outbursts). Studying SW-1 may tell us generally how outbursts are triggered and evolve. Our data consists of CCD imaging taken every few weeks over the summer of 2002. We observed SW-1 having two different outburst events, during which the coma showed a rich diversity of coma morphologies. Manipulating images enhances the faint jet features hidden within the coma, and we used 7 different image manipulation techniques to be sure of identifying features vs. artefacts. These enhancements allow us to obtain quantitative information on jet positions and relative brightnesses, and will let us eventually model the nucleus's rotation state and the location of its active areas. Our data also show us different stages of outburst evolution, which has not been often done before. The outbursts lasted for several weeks, whith two jet features located approximately 180 degrees apart. Interestingly the two features did not always stay at a constant orientation, but rather their PAs seemed to vary slightly as the outburst progressed. We present (a) images that show the evolution of the outburst, (b) a description of the location and any apparent movement of the coma features, and (c) a discussion of possible explanations. The continued study of SW-1 will undoubtedly help us better understand the nature of this truly strange comet.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.