L. Paganini, et al.
Ground-Based Infrared Detections of CO in the Centaur-comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 at 6.26 AU from the Sun
The Astrophysical Journal, 766(2), 100-112, 2013


We observed Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (hereafter, 29P) in 2012 February and May with CRIRES/VLT and NIRSPEC/Keck-II, when the comet was at 6.26 AU from the Sun and about 5.50 AU from Earth. With CRIRES, we detected five CO emission lines on several nights in each epoch, confirming the ubiquitous content and release of carbon monoxide from the nucleus. This is the first simultaneous detection of multiple lines from any (neutral) gaseous species in comet 29P at infrared wavelengths. It is also the first extraction of a rotational temperature based on the intensities of simultaneously measured spectral lines in 29P, and the retrieved rotational temperature is the lowest obtained in our infrared survey to date. We present the retrieved production rates (~3 × 10 28 molecules s –1 ) and remarkably low (~5 K) rotational temperatures for CO, and compare them with results from previous observations at radio wavelengths. Along with CO, we pursued detections of other volatiles, namely H 2 O, C 2 H 6 , C 2 H 2 , CH 4 , HCN, NH 3 , and CH 3 OH. Although they were not detected, we present sensitive upper limits. These results establish a new record for detections by infrared spectroscopy of parent volatiles in comets at large heliocentric distances. Until now considered to be a somewhat impossible task with IR ground-based facilities, these discoveries demonstrate new opportunities for targeting volatile species in distant comets.


  author = "L. Paganini and M. J. Mumma and H. Boehnhardt and M. A. DiSanti and G. L. Villanueva and B. P. Bonev and M. Lippi and H. U. Käufl and G. A. Blake",
  title = "Ground-Based Infrared Detections of CO in the Centaur-comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 at 6.26 AU from the Sun",
  year = 2013,
  journal = "The Astrophysical Journal",
  volume = 766,
  number = 2,
  pages = "100-112",
  month = "Mar",
  url = ""
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