CCD imaging and photometry of 46P/Wirtanen during October 1996

Uwe Fink, Ron A. Fevig, Stephen C. Tegler, William Romanishin

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14 Scopus citations


During the period of 96 Oct. 7.16 to Oct. 12.14 comet P/Wirtanen was observed with our CCD system at the 154 cm Catalina Observatory telescope at a heliocentric distance near 2.1 AU. The comet exhibited a coma of about 7 in ia diameter with a tail of about 14 in. The observed B, V and R magnitudes within a 9.3 in diameter aperture were 19.94, 19.11 and 18.73, respectively. The large majority of our observations were carried out with a filter combining the V and R passbands (V + R). The average V + R magnitudes for Oct. 7.16, 8.14, 9.12 and 10.15, respectively, were 18.91, 18.87, 18.87 and 18.86, the data did not allow the extraction of a lightcurve but hopefully can be used in conjunction with other observations to constrain the comet's rotation period. An attempt to separate the nucleus contribution from the coma resulted in an upper limit to the nuclear magnitude of ≈20.6 in V + R at a phase of 26° or ≈19.6 at 0° phase angle. This results in an upper limit of 1.2 km for the comet's radius assuming a geometric albedo of 0.04. Calculating the Afp yielded a value of 7 cm which is a factor of 170 smaller than P/Halley at a comparable heliocentric distance and phase angle. Making the simple assumption that the comet's activity is proportional to its surface area makes the surface area of Wirtanen about 2.4 km2, equivalent to an effective radius of ≈0.44 km.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1383-1387
Number of pages5
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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