UCF: Bizarro Comet Challenging Central Florida Researchers

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UCF: Bizarro Comet Challenging Central Florida Researchers

Postby bystander » Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:17 pm

Bizarro Comet Challenging Central Florida Researchers
University of Central Florida | 2017 Jun 29

Scientists pursue research through observation, experimentation and modeling. They strive for all of these pieces to fit together, but sometimes finding the unexpected is even more exciting.

That’s what happened to University of Central Florida’s astrophysicist Gal Sarid, who studies comets, asteroids and planetary formation and earlier this year was part of a team that published a study focused on the comet 174P/Echeclus. It didn’t behave the way the team was expecting.

“This is another clue that Echeclus is a bizarre solar system object,” said University of South Florida physics research Professor Maria Womack, who leads the team. ...

Echeclus is part of the population of objects called Centaurs, which have orbits around the Sun at distances between that of Jupiter and Neptune. It is also part of a special group within the Centaurs, which sometimes exhibit comet-like activity. Previous research indicated that Echeclus might have been spewing carbon monoxide as its icy material changed phases.

The team found that the levels of carbon monoxide were nearly 40 times lower than typically expected from other comets at similar distances from the Sun. This suggests that Echeclus and similar active Centaurs may be more fragile than other comets. Echeclus may have gone through a different physical process from most comets that caused it to lose a lot of its original carbon monoxide, or it may have had less of that substance to begin with. ...

Carbon Monoxide in the Distantly Active Centaur (60558) 174P/Echeclus at 6 AU - Kacper Wierzchos, Maria Womack, Gal Sarid
CO and Other Volatiles in Distantly Active Comets - Maria Womack, Gal Sarid, Kacper Wierzchos
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