Outgassing Behavior of C/2012 S1 (ISON) from 2011 September to 2013 June

Karen J. Meech, Bin Yang, Jan Kleyna, Megan Ansdell, Hsin-Fang Chiang, Olivier Hainaut, Jean-Baptiste Vincent, Hermann Boehnhardt, Alan Fitzsimmons, Travis Rector, Timm Riesen, Jacqueline V. Keane, Bo Reipurth, Henry H. Hsieh, Peter Michaud, Giannantonio Milani, Erik Bryssinck, Rolando Ligustri, Roberto Trabatti, Gian-Paolo TozziStefano Mottola, Ekkehard Kuehrt, Bhuwan Bhatt, Devendra Sahu, Carey Lisse, Larry Denneau, Robert Jedicke, Eugene Magnier, Richard Wainscoat

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26 Citations (Scopus)


We report photometric observations for comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) obtained during the time period immediately after discovery (r = 6.28 AU) until it moved into solar conjunction in mid-2013 June using the UH2.2 m, and Gemini North 8 m telescopes on Mauna Kea, the Lowell 1.8 m in Flagstaff, the Calar Alto 1.2 m telescope in Spain, the VYSOS-5 telescopes on Mauna Loa Hawaii and data from the CARA network. Additional pre-discovery data from the Pan STARRS1 survey extends the light curve back to 2011 September 30 (r = 9.4 AU). The images showed a similar tail morphology due to small micron sized particles throughout 2013. Observations at submillimeter wavelengths using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on 15 nights between 2013 March 9 (r = 4.52 AU) and June 16 (r = 3.35 AU) were used to search for CO and HCN rotation lines. No gas was detected, with upper limits for CO ranging between 3.5-4.5 × 1027 molecules s-1. Combined with published water production rate estimates we have generated ice sublimation models consistent with the photometric light curve. The inbound light curve is likely controlled by sublimation of CO2. At these distances water is not a strong contributor to the outgassing. We also infer that there was a long slow outburst of activity beginning in late 2011 peaking in mid-2013 January (r ~ 5 AU) at which point the activity decreased again through 2013 June. We suggest that this outburst was driven by CO injecting large water ice grains into the coma. Observations as the comet came out of solar conjunction seem to confirm our models.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2013


  • comets: general
  • comets: individual: ISON


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