Ground-based monitoring of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko gas activity throughout the Rosetta mission

Opitom, C.; Snodgrass, C.; Fitzsimmons, A.; Jehin, E.; Manfroid, J.; Tozzi, G. P.; Faggi, S. and Gillon, M. (2017). Ground-based monitoring of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko gas activity throughout the Rosetta mission. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 469(S2) S222-S229.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stx1591

Abstract

Simultaneously to the ESA Rosetta mission, a world-wide ground-based campaign provided measurements of the large scale activity of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko through measurement of optically active gas species and imaging of the overall dust coma. We present more than two years of observations performed with the FORS2 low resolution spectrograph at the VLT, TRAPPIST, and ACAM at the WHT. We focus on the evolution of the CN production, as a tracer of the comet activity. We find that it is asymmetric with respect to perihelion and different from that of the dust. The CN emission is detected for the first time at 1.34 au pre-perihelion and production rates then increase steeply to peak about two weeks after perihelion at (1.00±0.10) ×1025 molecules s−1, while the post-perihelion decrease is more shallow. The evolution of the comet activity is strongly influenced by seasonal effects, with enhanced CN production when the Southern hemisphere is illuminated.

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