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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[33.12] Large aperture [O I] photometry of comets Hyakutake, Halley, and Austin: implications for the photochemistry of OH

J. P. Morgenthaler, W. M. Harris (U. Wash. Dept. of Earth & Space Sci), F. Scherb (U. Wisc. Dept. of Physics), M. R. Combi (U. Mich. Dept. of Atm., Ocean and Space Sci)

The 6300 Åcomponent of the oxygen (1D) doublet is a bright, easily observed line in cometary comae that results primarily from the photodissociation of water and its daughter, OH. If the cometary emission can be separated from foreground airglow, either by foreground subtraction or spectral resolution comparable to the geocentric velocity of the comet, [O I] photometry should, in principle make an excellent proxy for Q(H2O). With cometary geocentric velocities frequently less than 60 km/s, spectral separation requires instruments with resolving powers of >10000, which for conventional grating spectrographs, implies a slit width of order one arcsecond. Maximum slit length, limited by practical considerations is therefore of order a few arcminutes. For a typical geocentric distance of 1 AU, [O I] emission in this FOV is dominated by water photodissociation, so with only knowledge of water photochemistry and an estimate of the aperture correction from the distribution along the slit, water production rates can be derived (e.g. Fink et al. 1990). Interferometric techniques, such as Fabry-Perot, Michelson, and Spatial Heterodyne Spectroscopy (SHS) achieve very high spectral resolution over FOVs of arcminutes to degrees. Using the 1 degree FOV Wisconsin H-alpha Mapper (WHAM), we recorded images and spectra of comet Hale-Bopp that encompassed the entire [O I] coma. In this case, the emission was dominated by OH photodissociation. Using conventional OH photochemistry, our derived Q(H2O) values were a factor of 3-4 higher than the accepted values, suggesting a revision to the OH photochemistry is needed (Morgenthaler et al. 2001). In this work, we will revisit our large aperture [O I] measurements of comets 1P/Halley, C/1989X1 Austin, and C/1996 B2 Hyakutake and show that revision of the OH photochemistry is necessary to bring these results into agreement with accepted Q(H2O) values.

This work is funded by the NASA Planetary Atmospheres program.

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The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: jpmorgen@alum.mit.edu

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