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Astron. Astrophys. 318, L5-L8 (1997)

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1. Introduction

This research note has been stimulated by several significant developments that occurred during the 15 years since the publication of the most recent major review on the split comets (Sekanina 1982, referred to hereafter as Paper 1). Of particular interest are the disruption of D/Shoemaker-Levy 9 and its collision with Jupiter, the prevalence of old and short-period comets among the split comets that have been observed since 1982, and the appearance of comet pairs.

It is shown below that application of the model for the split comets, developed in the 1970s (Sekanina 1977, 1978, 1979) and reviewed in Paper 1, to an expanded sample of objects leads to fundamentally new information and to a classification of the split comets into two distinct groups, with major implications for the fragments.

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: July 8, 1998