Doubly Ionized Carbon Observed in the Plasma Tail of Comet Kudo-Fujikawa

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Science  12 Dec 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5652, pp. 1949-1952
DOI: 10.1126/science.1092142

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Comet C/2002 X5 (Kudo-Fujikawa) was observed near its perihelion of 0.19 astronomical unit by the Ultraviolet Coronagraph Spectrometer aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft. Images of the comet reconstructed from high-resolution spectra reveal a quasi-spherical cloud of neutral hydrogen and a variable tail of C+ and C2+ that disconnects from the comet and subsequently regenerates. The high abundance of C2+ and C+, at least 24% relative to water, cannot be explained by photodissociation of carbon monoxide and is instead attributed to the evaporation and subsequent photoionization of atomic carbon from organic refractory compounds present in the cometary dust grains.This result serves to strengthen the connection between comets and the material from which the Solar System formed.

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