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Comet 240P/NEAT Is Stirring

Kelley, Michael S. P. and Bodewits, Dennis and Ye, Quanzhi and Farnham, Tony L. and Bellm, Eric C. and Dekany, Richard and Duev, Dmitry A. and Helou, George and Kupfer, Thomas and Laher, Russ R. and Masci, Frank J. and Prince, Thomas A. and Rusholme, Ben and Shupe, David L. and Soumagnac, Maayane T. and Zolkower, Jeffry (2019) Comet 240P/NEAT Is Stirring. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 886 (1). Art. No. L16. ISSN 2041-8213. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/ab53e0.

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Comets are primitive objects that formed in the protoplanetary disk, and have been largely preserved over the history of the solar system. However, they are not pristine, and surfaces of cometary nuclei do evolve. In order to understand the extent of their primitive nature, we must define the mechanisms that affect their surfaces and comae. We examine the lightcurve of comet 240P/NEAT over three consecutive orbits, and investigate three events of significant brightening (Δm ~ −2 mag). Unlike typical cometary outbursts, each of the three events are long-lived, with enhanced activity for at least 3–6 months. The third event, observed by the Zwicky Transient Facility, occurred in at least two stages. The anomalous behavior appears to have started after the comet was perturbed by Jupiter in 2007, reducing its perihelion distance from 2.53 to 2.12 au. We suggest that the brightening events are temporary transitions to a higher baseline activity level, brought on by the increased insolation, which has warmed previously insulated sub-surface layers. The new activity is isolated to one or two locations on the nucleus, indicating that the surface or immediate sub-surface is heterogeneous. Further study of this phenomenon may provide insight into cometary outbursts, the structure of the near-surface nucleus, and cometary nucleus mantling.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Kelley, Michael S. P.0000-0002-6702-7676
Bodewits, Dennis0000-0002-2668-7248
Ye, Quanzhi0000-0002-4838-7676
Farnham, Tony L.0000-0002-4767-9861
Bellm, Eric C.0000-0001-8018-5348
Dekany, Richard0000-0002-5884-7867
Duev, Dmitry A.0000-0001-5060-8733
Helou, George0000-0003-3367-3415
Kupfer, Thomas0000-0002-6540-1484
Laher, Russ R.0000-0003-2451-5482
Masci, Frank J.0000-0002-8532-9395
Prince, Thomas A.0000-0002-8850-3627
Rusholme, Ben0000-0001-7648-4142
Shupe, David L.0000-0003-4401-0430
Soumagnac, Maayane T.0000-0001-6753-1488
Additional Information:© 2019 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2019 July 16; revised 2019 October 22; accepted 2019 November 4; published 2019 November 18. We thank all amateur astronomers contributing to the discovery of cometary outbursts. Based on observations obtained with the Samuel Oschin Telescope 48 inch at the Palomar Observatory as part of the Zwicky Transient Facility project. Z.T.F. is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. AST-1440341 and a collaboration including Caltech, IPAC, the Weizmann Institute for Science, the Oskar Klein Center at Stockholm University, the University of Maryland, the University of Washington, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron and Humboldt University, Los Alamos National Laboratories, the TANGO Consortium of Taiwan, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. Operations are conducted by COO, IPAC, and UW. Facilities: PO:1.2 m (NEAT - , PTF - , ZTF). - Software: Astropy (Astropy Collaboration et al. 2018), SEP (Barbary 2016), ZChecker (Kelley et al. 2019), Calviacat (Kelley & Lister 2019).
Group:Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), Zwicky Transient Facility, Astronomy Department
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)UNSPECIFIED
Weizmann Institute of ScienceUNSPECIFIED
Stockholm UniversityUNSPECIFIED
University of MarylandUNSPECIFIED
University of WashingtonUNSPECIFIED
Deutsches Elektronen-SynchrotronUNSPECIFIED
Humboldt UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Los Alamos National LaboratoryUNSPECIFIED
University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeUNSPECIFIED
Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Cometary studies; Light curves
Issue or Number:1
Classification Code:Unified Astronomy Thesaurus concepts: Cometary studies (279); Light curves (918)
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20191118-120700599
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Michael S. P. Kelley et al 2019 ApJL 886 L16
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:99900
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:18 Nov 2019 20:31
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 17:50

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