Journal Article

Outburst activity in comets – II. A multiband photometric monitoring of comet 29P/Schwassmann–Wachmann 1

Josep M. Trigo-Rodríguez, D. A. García-Hernández, Albert Sánchez, Juan Lacruz, Björn J. R. Davidsson, Diego Rodríguez, Sensi Pastor and José A. de los Reyes

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 409, issue 4, pages 1682-1690
Published in print December 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online December 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.17425.x
Outburst activity in comets – II. A multiband photometric monitoring of comet 29P/Schwassmann–Wachmann 1

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We have carried out a continuous multiband photometric monitoring of the nuclear activity of comet 29P/Schwassmann–Wachmann 1 from 2008 to 2010. Our main aim has been to study the outburst mechanism on the basis of a follow-up of the photometric variations associated with the release of dust. We have used a standardized method to obtain the 10-arcsec nucleus photometry in the V, R and I filters of the Johnson–Kron–Cousins system, which are accurately calibrated with standard Landolt stars. The production of dust in the R and I bands during the 2010 February 3 outburst has been also computed. We conclude that the massive ejection of large (optically thin) particles from the surface at the time of the outburst is the triggering mechanism to produce the outburst. The ulterior sublimation of these ice-rich dust particles during the following days induces fragmentation, generating micrometre-sized grains, which increase the dust spatial density to produce the outburst in the optical range as a result of the scattering of sunlight. The material leaving the nucleus adopts a fan-like dust feature, formed by micrometre-sized particles that decay in brightness as it evolves outwards. By analysing the photometric signal measured in a standardized 10-arcsec aperture using the phase dispersion minimization technique, we have found a clear periodicity of 50 d. Remarkably, this value is also consistent with an outburst frequency of 7.4 outbursts per yr deduced from the number of outbursts noticed during the effective observing time.

Keywords: comets: individual: 29P/Schwassmann–Wachmann 1

Journal Article.  4934 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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