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Comet outbursts and polymers of HCN

Rettig, Terrence W. and Tegler, Stephen C. and Pasto, Daniel J. and Mumma, Michael J. (1992) Comet outbursts and polymers of HCN. The Astrophysical Journal, 398. pp. 293-298. ISSN 1538-4357


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Publisher’s or external URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/171857


Dramatic cometary outbursts have been noted by observers for many years. These outbursts can sometimes increase the apparent brightness of a comet up to 9 mag and release energy on the order of 10 exp 19 ergs. A number of mechanisms have been suggested for outburst activity; however, none has been generally accepted. HCN is a known constituent of both interstellar icy grain mantles and cometary nuclei, and HCN polymers have been postulated to exist on the dark surface of comets such as P/Halley. Since polymerization is a strongly exothermic process, we investigate the possibility that HCN polymerization can provide the energy needed for outbursts. Polymerization may be continuing in the inhomogeneous interior of comets. In addition, the reactive CN groups in these oligomers can be hydrolyzed and may contribute to CO2 and CO pressure buildup in the interior of comets.

Item Type: Article
Publisher’s Statement: © 1992 The American Astronomical Society. Published in The Astrophysical Journal.
ID number or DOI: 10.1086/171857
Keywords: Comet Nuclei, Cyano Compounds, Interstellar Chemistry, Interstellar Matter, Polymerization, Astronomical Models, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Energy Transfer
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Faculty/Staff
Department/Unit: College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Science > Physics and Astronomy
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2016 18:26
URI: http://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/1854

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