Evolution of H2O, CO, and CO2 production in Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd during the 2011-2012 apparition

Adam J. McKay, Anita L. Cochran, Michael A. DiSanti, Geronimo Villanueva, Neil Dello Russo, Ronald J. Vervack, Jeffrey P. Morgenthaler, Walter M. Harris, Nancy J. Chanover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


We present analysis of high spectral resolution NIR spectra of CO and H2O in Comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd) taken during its 2011-2012 apparition with the CSHELL instrument on NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF). We also present analysis of observations of atomic oxygen in Comet Garradd obtained with the ARCES echelle spectrometer mounted on the ARC 3.5-m telescope at Apache Point Observatory and the Tull Coude spectrograph on the Harlan J. Smith 2.7-m telescope at McDonald Observatory. The observations of atomic oxygen serve as a proxy for H2O and CO2. We confirm the high CO abundance in Comet Garradd and the asymmetry in the CO/H2O ratio with respect to perihelion reported by previous studies. From the oxygen observations, we infer that the CO2/H2O ratio decreased as the comet moved towards the Sun, which is expected based on current sublimation models. We also infer that the CO2/H2O ratio was higher pre-perihelion than post-perihelion. We observe evidence for the icy grain source of H2O reported by several studies pre-perihelion, and argue that this source is significantly less abundant post-perihelion. Since H2O, CO2, and CO are the primary ices in comets, they drive the activity. We use our measurements of these important volatiles in an attempt to explain the evolution of Garradd's activity over the apparition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-515
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Comets
  • Comets, coma
  • Comets, composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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