Imaging and Photometry of Comet C/1999 S4 (LINEAR) Before Perihelion and After Breakup

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Science  18 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5520, pp. 1348-1353
DOI: 10.1126/science.1058886

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We analyzed photometric measurements and images of comet C/LINEAR before perihelion and after its breakup. Results from our photometry data include a lower limit of 0.44 kilometer for the radius of the nucleus before breakup, and a determination that it was depleted in carbon-chain molecules relative to most other comets. Our imaging and modeling results, which include a constraint on the rotational state of the nucleus, indicate that the disintegration likely started on 18 or 19 July 2000. The total mass detectable in the dust tail after the breakup was 3 × 108 kilograms, comparable to one of the fragments in the Hubble Space Telescope images; we therefore infer that most of the comet's original mass is hidden in remnants between 1 millimeter and 50 meters in diameter.

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