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Title: Atomic Iron and Nickel in the Coma of C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake): Production Rates, Emission Mechanisms, and Possible Parents
Abstract Two papers recently reported the detection of gaseous nickel and iron in the comae of over 20 comets from observations collected over two decades, including interstellar comet 2I/Borisov. To evaluate the state of the laboratory data in support of these identifications, we reanalyzed archived spectra of comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake), one of the nearest and brightest comets of the past century, using a combined experimental and computational approach. We developed a new, many-level fluorescence model that indicates that the fluorescence emissions of Fe I and Ni I vary greatly with heliocentric velocity. Combining this model with laboratory spectra of an Fe-Ni plasma, we identified 22 lines of Fe I and 14 lines of Ni I in the spectrum of Hyakutake. Using Haser models, we estimate the nickel and iron production rates as Q Ni = (2.6–4.1) × 10 22 s −1 and Q Fe = (0.4–2.8) × 10 23 s −1 . From derived column densities, the Ni/Fe abundance ratio log 10 [Ni/Fe] = −0.15 ± 0.07 deviates significantly from solar abundance ratios, and it is consistent with the ratios observed in solar system comets. Possible production and emission mechanisms are analyzed in the context of existing laboratory measurements. Based on the observed spatial distributions, excellent fluorescence model agreement, and Ni/Fe ratio, our findings support an origin consisting of a short-lived unknown parent followed by fluorescence emission. Our models suggest that the strong heliocentric velocity dependence of the fluorescence efficiencies can provide a meaningful test of the physical process responsible for the Fe I and Ni I emission.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1815932 1816984
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Planetary Science Journal
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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