Isotopic ratios of H, C, N, O, and S in comets C/2012 F6 and C/2014 Q2

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 19, 2016
Filed under ,
Isotopic ratios of H, C, N, O, and S in comets C/2012 F6 and C/2014 Q2
Comet Lovejoy
NASA/MSFC/Jacobs Technology/ESSSA/Aaron Kingery

The apparition of bright comets C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) and C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) in March-April 2013 and January 2015, combined with the improved observational capabilities of submillimeter facilities, offered an opportunity to carry out sensitive compositional and isotopic studies of the volatiles in their coma.

We observed comet Lovejoy with the IRAM 30m telescope between 13 and 26 January 2015, and with the Odin submillimeter space observatory on 29 January – 3 February 2015. We detected 22 molecules and several isotopologues. The H162O and H182O production rates measured with Odin follow a periodic pattern with a period of 0.94 days and an amplitude of ~25%. The inferred isotope ratios in comet Lovejoy are 16O/18O = 499 ± 24 and D/H = 1.4 ± 0.4 ×10−4 in water, 32S/34S = 24.7 ± 3.5 in CS, all compatible with terrestrial values. The ratio 12C/13C = 109 ± 14 in HCN is marginally higher than terrestrial and 14N/15N = 145 ± 12 in HCN is half the Earth ratio. Several upper limits for D/H or 12C/13C in other molecules are reported.

From our observation of HDO in comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), we report the first D/H ratio in an Oort Cloud comet that is not larger than the terrestrial value. On the other hand, the observation of the same HDO line in the other Oort-cloud comet, C/2012 F6 (Lemmon), suggests a D/H value four times higher. Given the previous measurements of D/H in cometary water, this illustrates that a diversity in the D/H ratio and in the chemical composition, is present even within the same dynamical group of comets, suggesting that current dynamical groups contain comets formed at very different places or times in the early solar system.

N. Biver, R. Moreno, D. Bockelée-Morvan, Aa. Sandqvist, P. Colom, J. Crovisier, D.C. Lis, J. Boissier, V. Debout, G. Paubert, S. Milam, A. Hjalmarson, S. Lundin, T. Karlsson, M. Battelino, U. Frisk, D. Murtagh, the Odin team
(Submitted on 16 Mar 2016)

Comments: Accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201528041
Cite as: arXiv:1603.05006 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1603.05006v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Jacques Crovisier
[v1] Wed, 16 Mar 2016 09:45:21 GMT (185kb)

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