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Characterizing the aftermath of outbursts of Centaur 29/Schwassmann–Wachmann 1 with HST/WFC3

Presentation #105.04 in the session Physical Properties of Centaurs & KBOs.

Published onOct 20, 2022
Characterizing the aftermath of outbursts of Centaur 29/Schwassmann–Wachmann 1 with HST/WFC3

Centaur 29/Schwassmann–Wachmann 1(hereafter 29P) is a continually active object moving along a nearly circular orbit at a large heliocentric distance of ~6 au. Monitoring campaigns suggest that it is one of the most active objects in our solar system, with episodic large outbursts occuring about 7 times a year. Smaller events appear to occur almost continuously [1,2]. In this work, we present the results from observations of 29P with the Hubble Space Telescope as a target of opportunity, collected between 2019 – 2021. The observations in 2019 were triggered after a possible fragmentation event was reported, that occurred between Oct. 1 – 3, 2019 [3]. The 2021 observations were requested after 29P underwent multiple large outbursts, resulting in its largest brightness increase observed in the past decades, starting around Sep. 25, 2021 [4]. For both campaigns, the comet was observed three times, separated by a week, to study the dynamical and physical evolution of the coma. The object exhibited further outburst activity during those campaigns, providing us with the first close-up observations of the immediate aftermath of small- and medium sized outbursts. For the 2021 data, we will present detailed images characterization of the coma and the results of deep search of fragments in images taken 12 hours after a mini-outburst on Nov. 23, 2021.


[1] Trigo-Rodriguez, J.M., et al. 2008, MNRAS, 485, 599.

[2] Miles, R., 2016, Icarus 272, 387–413

[3] Kelley et al, 2019, Atel #13164


Acknowledgements: Based on observations with the NASA/ESA/CSA Hubble Space Telescope obtained from the data archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Incorporated, under. NASA contract NAS5-26555. Support for program numbers HST-GO-15965 and HST-GO-16852 was provided through grants from the STSCI under NASA contract NAS-26555.

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