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Astron. Astrophys. 339, L25-L28 (1998)

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Letter to the Editor

A double nucleus of comet Evans-Drinkwater (C/1996 J1)

Zdenek Sekanina

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA

Received 26 May 1998 / Accepted 18 September 1998


The nucleus of comet C/1996 J1, whose duplicity was first detected in early May 1997, [FORMULA] 4 months after perihelion, is found to have split nontidally [FORMULA] 70 days before perihelion at 1.65 AU from the Sun. The secondary nucleus, discovered when in outburst and subsequently observed for 8[FORMULA] months, had separated from the primary nucleus at a rate of 1.7 m/s and drifted away from it with a radial nongravitational deceleration of [FORMULA]the Sun's attraction, typical for the short-lived companions. At the time of splitting, this dynamically new comet was near conjunction with the Sun and therefore unobservable from Earth. In late 1997 and early 1998, when last seen, the companion was [FORMULA] 100 times fainter relative to the primary component than it had been when first reported.

Key words: comet Evans-Drinkwater – double nucleus – nontidal splitting – brightness variations – new comets

Send offprint requests to: Zdenek Sekanina

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998

Online publication: September 30, 1998