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Charles E. Woodward

Mid-Infrared Spectrophotometric Observations of Fragments B and C of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachman 3
Harker, David E.; Woodward, Charles E.; Kelley, Michael S.; Sitko, Michael L.; Wooden, Diane H.; Lynch, David K.; Russell, Ray W., The Astronomical Journal

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We present mid-infrared spectra and images from the GEMINI-N (+Michelle) observations of fragments SW3-[B] and SW3-[C] of the ecliptic (Jupiter Family) comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 pre-perihelion. We observed fragment B soon after an outburst event (between 2006 April 16 - 26 UT) and detected crystalline silicates. The mineralogy of both fragments was dominated by amorphous carbon and amorphous pyroxene. The grain size distribution (assuming a Hanner modified power-law) for fragment SW3-[B] has a peak grain radius of a_p ~ 0.5 micron, and for fragment SW3-[C], a_p ~ 0.3 micron; both values larger than the peak grain radius of the size distribution for the dust ejected from ecliptic comet 9P/Tempel 1 during the Deep Impact event (a_p = 0.2 micron. The silicate-to-carbon ratio and the silicate crystalline mass fraction for the submicron to micron-size portion of the grain size distribution on the nucleus of fragment SW3-[B] was 1.341 +0.250 -0.253 and 0.335 +0.089 -0.112, respectively, while on the nucleus of fragment SW3-[C] was 0.671 +0.076 -0.076 and 0.257 +0.039 -0.043, respectively. The similarity in mineralogy and grain properties between the two fragments implies that 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 is homogeneous in composition. The slight differences in grain size distribution and silicate-to-carbon ratio between the two fragments likely arises because SW3-[B] was actively fragmenting throughout its passage while the activity in SW3-[C] was primarily driven by jets. The lack of diverse mineralogy in the fragments SW3-[B] and SW3-[C] of 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 along with the relatively larger peak in the coma grain size distribution suggests the parent body of this comet may have formed in a region of the solar nebula with different environmental properties than the natal sites where comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) and 9P/Tempel 1 nuclei aggregated.