The Distribution of Geometric Albedos of Jupiter-Family Comets From SEPPCoN and Visible-Wavelength Photometry

Yanga R. Fernandez, Harold A. Weaver, Casey M. Lisse, Karen Jean Meech, Stephen C. Lowry, James M. Bauer, Alan Fitzsimmons, Colin Snodgrass

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Cometary nuclei are some of the least reflective natural objects in the Solar System, although the number of comets for which the reflectivity has heretofore actually been measured is small due to the difficulty of the requisite measurements. When no other information is present, it is common to assume a geometric albedo of 4%, and this is consistent with the limited number of known albedos. However the true average albedo, median albedo, and spread of the distribution are not well constrained. Knowing the ensemble properties of cometary albedos would aid in understanding the surface scattering properties as well as the interior thermal evolution and surface evolution of the population. We present here a preliminary estimate of the distribution of geometric albedos among the Jupiter-family comet (JFC) population. We make use of and build on the results of the Survey of Ensemble Physical Properties of Cometary Nuclei (SEPPCoN), in which we obtained new and independent estimates of the radii of 89 JFCs [1,2]. We will present our preliminary albedo estimates for ~50 JFC nuclei (by far the most ever obtained), and we will discuss the implications of the ensemble of the results. These JFCs were all observed in R-band, and were all observed at relatively large heliocentric distances (usually >4 AU from the Sun) where the comets appeared inactive, thus minimizing coma contamination. We acknowledge the support of NASA grant NNX09AB44G, of NSF grant AST-0808004, and of the Astrophysical Research Consortium/Apache Point Observatory for this work. References: [1] Y. R. Fernandez et al., 2013, Icarus 226, 1138. [2] M. S. Kelley et al., 2013, Icarus 225, 475.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2016


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