Comets; cometary dust tails; infrared imaging; wise
The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission surveyed the sky in four infrared wavelength bands (3.4, 4.6, 12 and 22 μm) between January 2010 and February 2011. During the mission, WISE serendipitously observed 160 comets, including 21 newly discovered objects. About 89 of the comets observed by WISE displayed a significant dust tail in the 12 and 22 μm (thermal emission) bands, showing a wide range of activity levels and dust morphology. Since the observed objects are a mix of both long-period comets (LPCs) and short-period comets (SPCs), differences in their activity can be used to better understand the thermal evolution that each of these populations has undergone. For the comets that displayed a significant dust tail, we have estimated the sizes and ages of the particles using dynamical models based on the Finson-Probstein method [Finson and Probstein, 1968]. For a selection of 40 comets, we have then compared these models to the data using a novel tail-fitting method that allows the best-fit model to be chosen analytically rather than subjectively. For comets that were observed multiple times by WISE, the particle properties were estimated separately, and then compared. We find that the dust tails of both LPCs and SPCs are primarily comprised of ~mm-cm sized particles, which were the result of emission that occurred several months to several years prior to the observations. The LPCs nearly all have strong emission close to the comet*s perihelion distance, and the SPCs mostly have strong emission close to perihelion, but some have strong emission well before perihelion.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Physics; Planetary Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
Kramer, Emily, "Studying Short-Period Comets and Long-Period Comets Detected by WISE/NEOWISE" (2014). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1264.