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The Velocity Distribution of Cometary Hydrogen: Evidence for High Velocities?

Brown, Michael E. and Spinrad, Hyron (1993) The Velocity Distribution of Cometary Hydrogen: Evidence for High Velocities? Icarus, 104 (2). pp. 197-205. ISSN 0019-1035. doi:10.1006/icar.1993.1095.

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We present high-velocity and spatial resolution two-dimensional spectra of Hα 6563 Å emission in comets Austin (1989c_1) and Levy (1990c) obtained using the Hamilton Echelle spectrograph on the 3-m Shane telescope at Lick Observatory. Because of the high signal-to-noise of these spectra, achieved through long integrations with long-slit spectroscopy on these relatively bright comets, we can directly observe the hydrogen velocity distribution. The hydrogen velocity distributions in both comets confirm the presence of the components expected from water dissociation and collisional thermalization in the inner coma. In addition, the velocity distribution in comet Austin apparently has a spatially symmetric high-velocity component not predicted by current theory, although the ubiquitous emissions from a unidentified cometary molecule could coincidentally mimic the signature of this fast hydrogen. Comet Levy also shows high-velocity hydrogen, but, unlike the spatially symmetric emission in Austin, the fast hydrogen in Levy is located exclusively on the sunward side of the nucleus. The cause of the Levy fast hydrogen is unknown, but the source could be charge exchange with the solar wind related to the variability and sunward dust ejection observed in that comet by IUE and HST.

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Brown, Michael E.0000-0002-8255-0545
Additional Information:© 1993 Academic Press. Received January 25; revised May 10, 1993. We have benefited from valuable discussions with Drs. Michael Combi and William Smyth. Dr. Robert Wu kindly supplied his data in advance of publication. We thank Tony Misch and Lick Observatory for obtaining the Comet Levy spectrum. This paper has been greatly improved through the critical readings and discussions of Elisabeth Moyer and Toby Falk and through the insightful comments of the reviewers. This work was supported by NASA Grant NAGW-2883, and M.E.B. acknowledges the support of a NASA Graduate Fellowship and the hospitality of the Lunar and Planetary Institute at which the manuscript was completed.
Group:UNSPECIFIED, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences
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NASA Graduate Student Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20120928-114319909
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Official Citation:Michael E. Brown, Hyron Spinrad, The Velocity Distribution of Cometary Hydrogen: Evidence for High Velocities?, Icarus, Volume 104, Issue 2, August 1993, Pages 197-205, ISSN 0019-1035, 10.1006/icar.1993.1095. (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:34542
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:28 Sep 2012 19:20
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:09

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