The Open UniversitySkip to content

The persistent activity of Jupiter-family comets at 3–7AU

Kelley, Michael S.; Fernández, Yanga R.; Licandro, Javier; Lisse, Carey M.; Reach, William T.; A’Hearn, Michael F.; Bauer, James; Campins, Humberto; Fitzsimmons, Alan; Groussin, Olivier; Lamy, Philippe L.; Lowry, Stephen C.; Meech, Karen J.; Pittichová, Jana; Snodgrass, Colin; Toth, Imre and Weaver, Harold A. (2013). The persistent activity of Jupiter-family comets at 3–7AU. Icarus, 225(1) pp. 475–494.

DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


We present an analysis of comet activity based on the Spitzer Space Telescope component of the Survey of the Ensemble Physical Properties of Cometary Nuclei. We show that the survey is well suited to measuring the activity of Jupiter-family comets at 3–7 AU from the Sun. Dust was detected in 33 of 89 targets (37 ± 6%), and we conclude that 21 comets (24 ± 5%) have morphologies that suggest ongoing or recent cometary activity. Our dust detections are sensitivity limited, therefore our measured activity rate is necessarily a lower limit. All comets with small perihelion distances (q < 1.8 AU) are inactive in our survey, and the active comets in our sample are strongly biased to post-perihelion epochs. We introduce the quantity ∊, intended to be a thermal emission counterpart to the often reported A, and find that the comets with large perihelion distances likely have greater dust production rates than other comets in our survey at 3–7 AU from the Sun, indicating a bias in the discovered Jupiter-family comet population. By examining the orbital history of our survey sample, we suggest that comets perturbed to smaller perihelion distances in the past 150 yr are more likely to be active, but more study on this effect is needed.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2013 Elsevier Inc.
ISSN: 0019-1035
Keywords: comets; cometary dust; cometary coma; infrared observations
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Physical Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Research Group: Space
Item ID: 43045
Depositing User: Colin Snodgrass
Date Deposited: 21 May 2015 10:19
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 10:31
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU