Evidence for Chain Molecules Enriched in Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen in Comet Halley

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  07 Aug 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4815, pp. 626-628
DOI: 10.1126/science.237.4815.626


In situ measurements of the composition and spatial distribution of heavy thermal positive ions in the coma of comet Halley were made with the heavy-ion analyzer RPA2-PICCA aboard the Giotto spacecraft. Above 50 atomic mass units an ordered series of mass peaks centered at 61, 75, 91, and 105 atomic mass units were observed. Each peak appears to be composed of three or more closely spaced masses. The abundances decrease and the dissociation rates increase smoothly with increasing mass. These observations suggest the presence of chain molecules that are enriched in carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, such as polyoxymethylene (polymerized formaldehyde), in comet Halley.