37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 11 Comets
Oral, Monday, September 5, 2005, 4:20-6:00pm, Law LG19

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[11.03] Light Curves of Kreutz Comets

M. M. Knight, M. F. A'Hearn (University of Maryland), D. A. Biesecker (NOAA), G. Faury (Laboratoire d´Astronomie Spatiale, France), D. P. Hamilton (University of Maryland), P. Lamy, A. Llebaria (Laboratoire d' Astronomie Spatiale, France)

We present the results of our study of the light curves of the Kreutz family comets observed by SOHO-LASCO. This is a continuation of the earlier work by Biesecker et al. (2002) and includes all Kreutz comets which reached perihelion in the SOHO-LASCO field of view by the end of 2003, a sample of more than 600 comets. We do not see the bimodality of the light curves found by Biesecker et al., however we find that the brightest comets increase in brightness more rapidly and fade more slowly than fainter comets. To test if the slope of the brightening seen at the small heliocentric distances observed by SOHO-LASCO (inside 0.14 AU) extends to larger distances (1-3 AU), we imaged fields statistically likely to contain Kreutz comets prior to their entering the SOHO-LASCO field of view using the Kitt Peak National Observatory 4-m telescope with the MOSAIC wide-field imager in January 2005. No comets were discovered in these fields, however they will be searched again using the ephemerides of all Kreutz comets that reach perihelion in the SOHO-LASCO field of view during May and June 2005, since some of these comets should have been in the observed fields. This will allow us to set constraints on the rate of brightening at heliocentric distances beyond the SOHO-LASCO field of view.

This work is supported by the NASA Planetary Atmospheres Program under grant NAG513295.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.