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Astron. Astrophys. 337, 945-954 (1998)

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Hubble Space Telescope observations of the nucleus and inner coma of comet 19P/1904 Y2 (Borrelly) *

Philippe L. Lamy 1, Imre Toth 1, 2 and Harold A. Weaver 3

1 Laboratoire d'Astronomie Spatiale du C.N.R.S., BP 8, F-13376 Marseille Cedex 12, France
2 Konkoly Observatory, Budapest H-1525, P.O. Box 67, Hungary
3 Department of Physics and Astronomy, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA

Received 9 July 1997 / Accepted 22 April 1998


The nucleus of comet 19P/Borrelly was detected using the Planetary Camera (WFPC2) of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). During the time of our observations, the comet was 0.62 AU from the Earth, 1.40 AU from the Sun, and had a solar phase angle of [FORMULA]. The high spatial resolution of the HST images allowed us to discriminate clearly between the signal from the nucleus and that from the coma. The lightcurve of the nucleus indicates that it is a highly elongated body rotating with a synodic period of 25.0[FORMULA]0.5 hr. Assuming that the nucleus has a geometric albedo of 4% and is a prolate spheroid with a rotational axis pointing in the direction determined by Sekanina (1979), we derive that its semi-axes are 4.4[FORMULA]0.3 km and 1.8[FORMULA]0.15 km. The corresponding fractional active area of [FORMULA]8 % suggests a moderately active comet. The highly anisotropic coma is dominated by a strong sunward fan, and the dust production rate exhibited signs of temporal variability throughout our observations.

Key words: comets: individual: 19P/Borrelly – comets: general – techniques: image processing

* Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, under NASA contract NAS 5-26555

Send offprint requests to: P.L. Lamy.

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998

Online publication: August 27, 1998