Outgassing Behavior and Composition of Comet C/1999 S4 (LINEAR) During Its Disruption

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Science  18 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5520, pp. 1339-1343
DOI: 10.1126/science.1058512

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The gas activity of comet C/1999 S4 (LINEAR) was monitored at radio wavelengths during its disruption. A runaway fragmentation of the nucleus may have begun around 18 July 2000 and proceeded until 23 July. The mass in small icy debris (≤30-centimeter radius) was comparable to the mass in the large fragments seen in optical images. The mass budget after breakup suggests a small nucleus (∼100- to 300-meter radius) that had been losing debris for weeks. The HNC, H2CO, H2S, and CS abundances relative to H2O measured during breakup are consistent with those obtained in other comets. However, a deficiency in CH3OH and CO is observed.

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