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RE: Jupiter Family Comets
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Title: The Persistent Activity of Jupiter-Family Comets at 3 to 7 AU
Authors: Michael S. Kelley, Yanga R. Fernandez, Javier Licandro, Carey M. Lisse, William T. Reach, Michael F. A'Hearn, James Bauer, Humberto Campins, Alan Fitzsimmons, Olivier Groussin, Philippe L. Lamy, Stephen C. Lowry, Karen J. Meech, Jana Pittichova, Colin Snodgrass, Imre Toth, Harold A. Weaver

We present an analysis of comet activity based on the Spitzer Space Telescope component of the Survey of the Ensemble Physical Properties of Cometary Nuclei. We show that the survey is well suited to measuring the activity of Jupiter-family comets at 3-7 AU from the Sun. Dust was detected in 33 of 89 targets (37 ± 6%), and we conclude that 21 comets (24 ± 5%) have morphologies that suggest ongoing or recent cometary activity. Our dust detections are sensitivity limited, therefore our measured activity rate is necessarily a lower limit. All comets with small perihelion distances (q < 1.8 AU) are inactive in our survey, and the active comets in our sample are strongly biased to post-perihelion epochs. We introduce the quantity epsilon-f-rho, intended to be a thermal emission counterpart to the often reported A-f-rho, and find that the comets with large perihelion distances likely have greater dust production rates than other comets in our survey at 3-7 AU from the Sun, indicating a bias in the discovered Jupiter-family comet population. By examining the orbital history of our survey sample, we suggest that comets perturbed to smaller perihelion distances in the past 150 yr are more likely to be active, but more study on this effect is needed.

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Title: Where is the main source of Jupiter family comets situated?
Authors: A. M. Kazantsev

An attempt to determine spatial location of the main source of short-period comet nuclei was made. There were carried out numerical calculations for orbit evolution of Jupiter family comets, comets with middle-period orbits and bodies of Centaur group. On the basis of the calculations it was shown, that orbital evolution of the solar system small bodies is mainly going in the direction of the semi-major axes increase. It belongs to the bodies which can undergo approaches the planets, and orbital evolution of which is mainly going due to the gravitational forces. Such result is confirmed by qualitative analysis of changes of small body semi-major axes under approaches the planets. The conclusion was drawn that the main source of nuclei of Jupiter family comets is apparently situated at distances from the Sun not more than 6 AU.

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Survey finds not all meteors the same

Scientists have unravelled the mystery of why some meteors flash across the night sky burning up as shooting stars, while others survive raining gently down to the ground.
The discovery by Dr David Nesvorny from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado and colleagues was made during a study of an astronomcical feature known as the Zodiacal Cloud.
The Zodiacal Cloud is a diffuse glow of scattered sunlight in the night sky. Models predict that micro-meteoroids enter the Earth's atmosphere at relatively low speeds, gently raining down onto the ground. But meteor radars consistently see the sky filled with rapidly speeding meteors flying too fast to survive.

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Title: Dynamical Model for the Zodiacal Cloud and Sporadic Meteors
Authors: David Nesvorny, Diego Janches, David Vokrouhlicky, Petr Pokorny, William F. Bottke, Peter Jenniskens

The solar system is dusty, and would become dustier over time as asteroids collide and comets disintegrate, except that small debris particles in interplanetary space do not last long. They can be ejected from the solar system by Jupiter, thermally destroyed near the Sun, or physically disrupted by collisions. Also, some are swept by the Earth (and other planets), producing meteors. Here we develop a dynamical model for the solar system meteoroids and use it to explain meteor radar observations. We find that the Jupiter Family Comets (JFCs) are the main source of the prominent concentrations of meteors arriving to the Earth from the helion and antihelion directions. To match the radiant and orbit distributions, as measured by the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) and Advanced Meteor Orbit Radar (AMOR), our model implies that comets, and JFCs in particular, must frequently disintegrate when reaching orbits with low perihelion distance. Also, the collisional lifetimes of millimetre particles may be longer (>10^5 yr at 1 AU) than postulated in the standard collisional models (10^4 yr at 1 AU), perhaps because these chondrule-sized meteoroids are stronger than thought before. Using observations of the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) to calibrate the model, we find that the total cross section and mass of small meteoroids in the inner solar system are (1.7-3.5)x10^11 km^2 and 4x10^19 g, respectively, in a good agreement with previous studies. The mass input required to keep the Zodiacal Cloud (ZC) in a steady state is estimated to be 10^4-10^5 kg/s. The input is up to 10 times larger than found previously, mainly because particles released closer to the Sun have shorter collisional lifetimes, and need to be supplied at a faster rate.

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Title: The size distribution of Jupiter Family comet nuclei
Authors: C. Snodgrass, A. Fitzsimmons, S.C. Lowry, P. Weissman

We present an updated cumulative size distribution (CSD) for Jupiter Family comet (JFC) nuclei, including a rigourous assessment of the uncertainty on the slope of the CSD. The CSD is expressed as a power law, N(>r_N) \propto r_N^{-q}, where r_N is the radius of the nuclei and q is the slope. We include a large number of optical observations published by ourselves and others since the comprehensive review in the "Comets II" book (Lamy et al. 2004), and make use of an improved fitting method. We assess the uncertainty on the CSD due to all of the unknowns and uncertainties involved (photometric uncertainty, assumed phase function, albedo and shape of the nucleus) by means of Monte Carlo simulations. In order to do this we also briefly review the current measurements of these parameters for JFCs. Our final CSD has a slope q=1.92 ± 0.20 for nuclei with radius r_N \ge 1.25 km.

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Comet 103P/Hartley 2
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Title: The nucleus of 103P/Hartley 2, target of the EPOXI mission
Authors: Colin Snodgrass, Karen Meech, Olivier Hainaut

103P/Hartley 2 was selected as the target comet for the Deep Impact extended mission, EPOXI, in October 2007. There have been no direct optical observations of the nucleus of this comet, as it has always been highly active when previously observed. We aimed to recover the comet near to aphelion, to a) confirm that it had not broken up and was in the predicted position, b) to provide astrometry and brightness information for mission planning, and c) to continue the characterisation of the nucleus. We observed the comet at heliocentric distances between 5.7 and 5.5 AU, using FORS2 at the VLT, at 4 epochs between May and July 2008. We performed VRI photometry on deep stacked images to look for activity and measure the absolute magnitude and therefore estimate the size of the nucleus. We recovered the comet near the expected position, with a magnitude of m_R = 23.74 ±0.06 at the first epoch. The comet had no visible coma, although comparison of the profile with a stellar one showed that there was faint activity, or possibly a contribution to the flux from the dust trail from previous activity. This activity appears to fade at further epochs, implying that this is a continuation of activity past aphelion from the previous apparition rather than an early start to activity before the next perihelion. Our data imply a nucleus radius of  less than 1 km for an assumed 4% albedo; we estimate a ~6% albedo. We measure a colour of (V-R) = 0. 26 ±0.09.

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Jupiter-family comets
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Title: That's the way the comet crumbles: Splitting Jupiter-family comets
Authors: Y. R. Fernandez

Our current understanding of split, Jupiter-family comets is reviewed. The focus is on what recent studies of comets have told us about the nature of the splitting phenomenon. The goal is to not repeat the information given in recent reviews of split comets, but to build upon it. In particular, we discuss comets that have suffered splitting or fragmentation events in the past few years. These include comets (a) 57P/du Toit-Neujmin-Delporte, observed with a long train of fragments in 2002; (b) 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, which split in 1995 and was extensively studied during its relatively close passage to Earth in 2006, during which dozens of fragments were discovered and studied; and (c) 174P/Echeclus, a Centaur and potentially future JFC, which split in late 2005 and was the first such Centaur observed to do so. We also discuss recent observations by SOHO of split comets that are likely of short-period. The Spitzer Space Telescope has observed many JFCs and provided us with unprecedented detailed views of cometary debris trails, which may be thought of as a middle ground between "normal" ejection of micron-sized dust grains and the cleaving off of meter-to-kilometre sized fragments. We will also discuss potential breakthroughs in studying splitting JFCs that may come from future surveys.

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Title: Radio observations of Jupiter-family comets
Authors: J. Crovisier, N. Biver, D. Bockelée-Morvan, P. Colom

Radio observations from decimetric to submillimetric wavelengths are now a basic tool for the investigation of comets. Spectroscopic observations allow us i) to monitor the gas production rate of the comets, by directly observing the water molecule, or by observing secondary products (e.g., the OH radical) or minor species (e.g., HCN); ii) to investigate the chemical composition of comets; iii) to probe the physical conditions of cometary atmospheres: kinetic temperature and expansion velocity. Continuum observations probe large-size dust particles and (for the largest objects) cometary nuclei. Comets are classified from their orbital characteristics into two separate classes: i) nearly-isotropic, mainly long-period comets and ii) ecliptic, short-period comets, the so-called Jupiter-family comets. These two classes apparently come from two different reservoirs, respectively the Oort cloud and the trans-Neptunian scattered disc. Due to their different history and - possibly - their different origin, they may have different chemical and physical properties that are worth being investigated. The present article reviews the contribution of radio observations to our knowledge of the Jupiter-family comets (JFCs). The difficulty of such a study is the commonly low gas and dust productions of these comets. Long-period, nearly-isotropic comets from the Oort cloud are better known from Earth-based observations. On the other hand, Jupiter-family comets are more easily accessed by space missions. However, unique opportunities to observe Jupiter-family comets are offered when these objects come by chance close to the Earth. About a dozen JFCs were successfully observed by radio techniques up to now. No obvious evidence for different properties between JFCs and other families of comets is found.

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Title: The Scattered Disk as the source of the Jupiter Family comets
Authors: Kathryn Volk, Renu Malhotra (Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona)
(Version v2)

The short period Jupiter family comets (JFCs) are thought to originate in the Kuiper Belt; specifically, a dynamical subclass of the Kuiper Belt known as the 'scattered disk' is argued to be the dominant source of JFCs. However, the best estimates from observational surveys indicate that this source may fall short by more than two orders of magnitude the estimates obtained from theoretical models of the dynamical evolution of Kuiper belt objects into JFCs. We re-examine the scattered disk as a source of the JFCs and make a rigorous estimate of the discrepancy. We find that the uncertainties in the dynamical models combined with a change in the size distribution function of the scattered disk at faint magnitudes (small sizes) beyond the current observational limit offer a possible but problematic resolution to the discrepancy. We discuss several other possibilities: that the present population of JFCs is a large fluctuation above their long term average, that larger scattered disk objects tidally break-up into multiple fragments during close planetary encounters as their orbits evolve from the trans-Neptune zone to near Jupiter, or that there are alternative source populations that contribute significantly to the JFCs. Well-characterised observational investigations of the Centaurs, objects that are transitioning between the trans-Neptune Kuiper belt region and the inner solar system, can test the predictions of the non-steady state and the tidal break-up hypotheses. The classical and resonant classes of the Kuiper belt are worth re-consideration as significant additional or alternate sources of the JFCs.

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Title: Optical observations of 23 distant Jupiter Family Comets, including 36P/Whipple at multiple phase angles
Authors: Colin Snodgrass (1 and 2), Stephen C. Lowry (2), Alan Fitzsimmons (2) ((1) European Southern Observatory, Chile, (2) Queen's University Belfast, UK)

We present photometry on 23 Jupiter Family Comets (JFCs) observed at large heliocentric distance, primarily using the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope (INT). Snap-shot images were taken of 17 comets, of which 5 were not detected, 3 were active and 9 were unresolved and apparently inactive. These include 103P/Hartley 2, the target of the NASA Deep Impact extended mission, EPOXI. For 6 comets we obtained time-series photometry and use this to constrain the shape and rotation period of these nuclei. The data are not of sufficient quantity or quality to measure precise rotation periods, but the time-series do allow us to measure accurate effective radii and surface colours. Of the comets observed over an extended period, 40P/Vaisala 1, 47P/Ashbrook-Jackson and P/2004 H2 (Larsen) showed faint activity which limited the study of the nucleus. Light-curves for 94P/Russell 4 and 121P/Shoemaker-Holt 2 reveal rotation periods of around 33 and 10 hours respectively, although in both cases these are not unique solutions. 94P was observed to have a large range in magnitudes implying that it is one of the most elongated nuclei known, with an axial ratio a/b \ge 3. 36P/Whipple was observed at 5 different epochs, with the INT and ESO's 3.6m NTT, primarily in an attempt to confirm the preliminary short rotation period apparent in the first data set. The combined data set shows that the rotation period is actually longer than 24 hours. A measurement of the phase function of 36P's nucleus gives a relatively steep \beta = 0.060 \pm 0.019. Finally, we discuss the distribution of surface colours observed in JFC nuclei, and show that it is possible to trace the evolution of colours from the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) population to the JFC population by applying a 'de-reddening' function to the KBO colour distribution.

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