The Perihelion Emission of Comet C/2010 L5 (WISE)

March 2017 • 2017ApJ...838...58K

Authors • Kramer, E. A. • Bauer, J. M. • Fernandez, Y. R. • Stevenson, R. • Mainzer, A. K. • Grav, T. • Masiero, J. • Nugent, C. • Sonnett, S.

Abstract • The only Halley-type comet discovered by the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), C/2010 L5 (WISE), was imaged three times by WISE, and it showed a significant dust tail during the second and third visits (2010 June and July, respectively). We present here an analysis of the data collected by WISE, putting estimates on the comet’s size, dust production rate, gas production (CO+CO2) rate, and active fraction. We also present a detailed description of a novel tail-fitting technique that allows the commonly used syndyne-synchrone models to be used analytically, thereby giving more robust results. We find that C/2010 L5's dust tail was likely formed by strong emission, likely in the form of an outburst, occurring when the comet was within a few days of perihelion. Analyses of the June and July data independently agree on this result. The two separate epochs of dust tail analysis independently suggest a strong emission event close to perihelion. The average size of the dust particles in the dust tail increased between the epochs, suggesting that the dust was primarily released in a short period of time, and the smaller dust particles were quickly swept away by solar radiation pressure, leaving the larger particles behind. The difference in CO2 and dust production rates measured in 2010 June and July is not consistent with “normal” steady-state gas production from a comet at these heliocentric distances, suggesting that much of the detected CO2 and dust was produced in an episodic event. Together, these conclusions suggest that C/2010 L5 experienced a significant outburst event when the comet was close to perihelion.


IPAC Authors


Joe Masiero

Associate Scientist