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Astron. Astrophys. 343, 997-1000 (1999)

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Oblate spheroid model of nucleus of comet 46P/Wirtanen

Magorzata Królikowska and Sawomira Szutowicz

Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Bartycka 18A, PL-00-716 Warsaw, Poland

Received 8 July 1998 / Accepted 16 December 1998


An improved forced-precession model of Comet 46P/Wirtanen is presented. The nongravitational motion of the comet has been investigated based on the forced precession model of the rotating cometary nucleus. The least squares method applied to observational equations allows us to determine six basic nongravitational parameters: A, [FORMULA], I, [FORMULA], [FORMULA], and s together with six orbital elements. The solutions were obtained with additional assumptions: 1. The cometary activity with respect to the perihelion is asymmetric and, 2a. The time shift parameter which describes the displacement of maximum activity with respect to the perihelion could change its value during the investigated apparitions or 2b. The real activity of the comet changed during the time interval considered. All eight recorded apparitions of the comet were linked using all astrometric observations covering the period 1948-1997 with a mean RMS residual of 1:006. According to the best solution, the nucleus of Comet Wirtanen is oblate along the spin-axis with a ratio of equatorial to polar radius of about [FORMULA]. This precession model yields a value of 4.9 hrs/km for the ratio of [FORMULA]. Assuming that the nucleus radius of 46P/Wirtanen most likely is in the range of 0.5-2.0 km we obtain a range 2.5-10.0 hours for the rotational period.

Key words: comets: individual: 46P/Wirtanen

Send offprint requests to: M. Królikowska (mkr@cbk.waw.pl)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1999

Online publication: March 1, 1999