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Leveraging the ALMA Atacama Compact Array for Cometary Science: An Interferometric Survey of Comet C/2015 ER61 (PanSTARRS) and Evidence for a Distributed Source of Carbon Monosulfide

Abstract : We report the first survey of molecular emission from cometary volatiles using standalone Atacama Compact Array (ACA) observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) toward comet C/2015 ER61 (PanSTARRS) carried out on UT 2017 April 11 and 15, shortly after its April 4 outburst. These measurements of HCN, CS, CH3OH, H2CO, and HNC (along with continuum emission from dust) probed the inner coma of C/2015 ER61, revealing asymmetric outgassing and discerning parent from daughter/distributed source species. This work presents spectrally integrated flux maps, autocorrelation spectra, production rates, and parent scale lengths for each molecule and a stringent upper limit for CO. HCN is consistent with direct nucleus release in C/2015 ER61, whereas CS, H2CO, HNC, and potentially CH3OH are associated with distributed sources in the coma. Adopting a Haser model, parent scale lengths determined for H2CO (Lp ~ 2200 km) and HNC (Lp ~ 3300 km) are consistent with previous work in comets, whereas significant extended source production (Lp ~ 2000 km) is indicated for CS, suggesting production from an unknown parent in the coma. The continuum presents a point-source distribution with a flux density implying an excessively large nucleus, inconsistent with other estimates of the nucleus size. It is best explained by the thermal emission of slowly moving outburst ejectas, with total mass 5-8 × 1010 kg. These results demonstrate the power of the ACA for revealing the abundances, spatial distributions, and locations of molecular production for volatiles in moderately bright comets such as C/2015 ER61.
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https://hal-insu.archives-ouvertes.fr/insu-03713749
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 5, 2022 - 8:10:53 AM
Last modification on : Monday, November 7, 2022 - 11:24:06 AM

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Nathan X. Roth, Stefanie N. Milam, Martin A. Cordiner, Bockelée-Morvan D., Nicolas Biver, et al.. Leveraging the ALMA Atacama Compact Array for Cometary Science: An Interferometric Survey of Comet C/2015 ER61 (PanSTARRS) and Evidence for a Distributed Source of Carbon Monosulfide. The Astrophysical Journal, 2021, 921, ⟨10.3847/1538-4357/ac0441⟩. ⟨insu-03713749⟩

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