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Variable X-Ray Emission of Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Abstract : In this paper, we present an analysis of X-ray and optical/ultraviolet (UV) data from the favorable (Δ ∼ 0.077 au) 2018 apparition of comet 46P/Wirtanen. The comet was observed during three different epochs (before, during, and after perihelion) over a 1.5 month period using the X-Ray Telescope (XRT) and Ultraviolet and Optical Telescope (UVOT) instruments on board the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) on board the Chandra X-ray Observatory. We clearly detected the comet's charge exchange-induced emission during the first two epochs (F x = (11.2 ± 0.8) and (6.9 ± 0.5) × 10 −13 erg cm −2 s −1 , respectively), while only an upper limit on the flux could be placed for the third epoch (F x < 1.38 × 10 −13 erg cm −2 s −1). As such, 46P/Wirtanen is one of the least luminous comets to be detected in X-rays. X-ray emission from the charge exchange between solar wind ions and the neutrals in the coma were analyzed against the water-production rate (Swift/UVOT) and space weather measurements. Further analyses of the emission features show that the solar wind properties inferred from the observed X-ray spectrum are in good agreement with those measured by the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft, proving the approach is reliable for solar wind diagnostics. It is also found that, despite the variability of the comet's properties (e.g., the waterproduction rate used as a neutrals density proxy), cometary X-ray emission is primarily modulated by the solar wind.
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Submitted on : Friday, November 12, 2021 - 5:07:10 PM
Last modification on : Sunday, June 26, 2022 - 3:19:31 AM
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Emanuele Bonamente, Damian J Christian, Zexi Xing, Kumar Venkataramani, Dimitra Koutroumpa, et al.. Variable X-Ray Emission of Comet 46P/Wirtanen. The Planetary Science Journal, IOP Science, 2021, 2 (6), 224 (23pp). ⟨10.3847/psj/ac2aac⟩. ⟨insu-03426935⟩

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