2I/Borisov: A C2 depleted interstellar comet

C. Opitom, A. Fitzsimmons, E. Jehin, Y. Moulane, O. Hainaut, K. J. Meech, B. Yang, Colin Snodgrass, Marco Micheli, J. V. Keane, Z. Benkhaldoun, J. T. Kleyna

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The discovery of the first active interstellar object 2I/Borisov provides an unprecedented opportunity to study planetary formation processes in another planetary system. In particular, spectroscopic observations of 2I allow us to constrain the composition of its nuclear ices. We obtained optical spectra of 2I with the 4.2 m William Herschel and 2.5 m Isaac Newton telescopes between 2019 September 30 and October 13, when the comet was between 2.5 au to 2.4 au from the Sun. We also imaged the comet with broadband filters on 15 nights from September 11 to October 17 with the TRAPPIST-North telescope. Broad-band imaging show that the dust coma colours (B-V=0.82$\pm$0.02, V-R=0.46$\pm$0.03, R-I=0.44$\pm$0.03, B-R=1.28$\pm$0.03) are the same as for Solar System comets. We detect CN emission in all spectra with production rates between $1.8\times10^{24}$ and $2.1\times10^{24}$molec/s. No other species are detected. We determine 3-sigma upper limits for C$_2$, C$_3$, and OH production rates of $6\times10^{23}$molec/s, $3\times10^{23}$molec/s and $2\times10^{27}$molec/s, respectively, on October 02. There is no significant increase of the CN production rate or A(0)f$\rho$ during our observing period. Finally, we place a 3-sigma upper limit on the Q(C$_2$)/Q(CN) ratio of 0.3 (on October 13). From this, we conclude that 2I is highly depleted in C$_2$, and may have a composition similar to Solar System carbon-chain depleted comets
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL8
Number of pages5
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 06 Nov 2019


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