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Optical Observations of Comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1) at Large Heliocentric Distances Before Perihelion

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Science  28 Mar 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5308, pp. 1909-1912
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5308.1909

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Abstract

The activity of comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1) was monitored monthly by optical imaging and long-slit spectroscopy of its dust and gas distribution over heliocentric distances of 4.6 to 2.9 astronomical units. The observed band intensities of the NH2 radical and the H2O+ ion cannot be explained by existing models of fluorescence excitation, warranting a reexamination of the corresponding production rates, at least at large heliocentric distances. Comparing the production rate of the CN radical to its proposed parent, HCN, shows no evidence for the need of a major additional source for CN in Hale-Bopp at large heliocentric distances. The dust and CN production rates are consistent with a significant amount of sublimation occurring from icy dust grains surrounding Hale-Bopp.

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