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Structure and dynamics of plasma-tail condensations of comet P/Halley 1986 and inferences on the structure and activity of the cometary nucleus

  • W. E. Celnik
  • Th. Schmidt-Kaler
Conference paper

Summary

Comet P/Halley has been observed photographically by Bochum observers from 1986 Feb. 17, to Apr. 17. Coma, dust, and plasma tail were recorded with high resolution and wide-field cameras. From a detailed analysis of the plasma tail dynamics we derived the distributions of velocity and acceleration along the tail up to distances of 50 106 km from the nucleus while the tail length detected reached 80 106 km. The mean value of the acceleration within the plasma tail is 29 ± 1 cm s −2 while the initial velocity of the condensations is in most cases 0.54 + 0.08 kms−1 corresponding to the outflow velocities of gas and dust jets. Some larger values observed may be real, due to strong interaction with solar wind particles. The mean outflow velocity from all determinations up to now is 0.61 ± 0.05 km s−1. We establish a consistent model of mass ejection activity from the surface of the nucleus and the distribution of the sources along the equator on the nucleus. The extension of the strong sources is less than 0.7 km. Main activity occurs at the long ends of the deformed ellipsoidal nucleus, the activity contrast between long ends and broad sides is 5:1. The sidereal rotation period of the nucleus is 50.5 ± 0.6 hours. The mean of all determinations up to now is 52.3 ± 0.4 hours. We explain the appearance of a 7.4-days period observed by other authors and suggested also by our data. As shown by the comparison of tail and coma dynamics plasma and neutral gas clouds are probably ejected at the same time from the same source on the nucleus. We discuss the variation of coma shell expansion with heliocentric distance. The variation of tail aberration seems to correlate more to the interplanetary magnetic field than to solar wind parameters. Tail disconnection events appear correlated to the magnetic field neutral sheets.

Key words

comets comet P/Halley plasma tail nucleus interplanetary medium 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. E. Celnik
    • 1
  • Th. Schmidt-Kaler
    • 1
  1. 1.Astronomisches InstitutRuhr-UniversitätBochum 1Federal Republic of Germany

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