A critical study of molecular photodissociation and chon grain sources for cometary C2

Michael R. Combi, Uwe Fink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The spatial distribution of C2 in the very inner comae of comets (< 104 km) often shows a profile which is flatter than can be reproduced by standard two-generation models. Because of this it has been suspected that a source other than the typical two-generation photodissociation is responsible. Previous investigators have suggested that either grains, most likely CHON grains, or a three-generation photodissociation may the source for cometary C2. We have performed an analysis of a set of spatial profiles of C2 in comet P/Halley to investigate this question. A three-generation dissociation model that unlike previous attempts can include the ejection velocity of daughter fragments at each dissociation is compared with published results of a purely radial three-generation model. We find that the addition of ejection velocities has a similar effect on three-generation models as has been shown already in two-generations by the vectoral and Monte Carlo models. Specifically, the addition of typical ejection velocities which are usually on the order of 1 km s-1 for a heavy species essentially fills in the "hole" in the inner coma which would otherwise be left by three-generation models that are purely radial, yielding profiles that are not easily distinguishable from two-generation model (Haser, vectorial, or Monte Carlo). We have also constructed a CHON Grain Halo (CGH) model that also produces flat inner profiles. The inferred size of the CGH is 88,000 km at 1 AU. This is consistent with some estimates of the depletion of small grains in comet Halley but is much larger than the extended source for H2CO and CO (∼104 km). The strict r2 variation for the heliocentric distance dependence for the C2 source is better explained by a direct CGH source. A combination of either grandparent-parent molecule scale lengths or grandparent CHON grains and an intermediate molecule would yield parent scale length variations closer to r1.5 (more like CN and NH2) than r2 which is found for C2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-890
Number of pages12
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997


  • Comets: general
  • Dust, extinction
  • Methods: statistical
  • Molecular processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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