There was an unprecedented opportunity to study the inner dust coma environments, where the dust and gas are not entirely decoupled, of comets 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdusáková (45P/HMP) from 2016 December 26 to 2017 March 15, and 46P/Wirtanen from 2018 November 10 to 2019 February 13, both in visible wavelengths. The radial profile slopes of these comets were measured in the R and HB-BC filters most representative of dust, and deviations from a radially expanding coma were identified as significant. The azimuthally averaged radial profile slope of comet 45P/HMP gradually changes from −1.81 ± 0.20 at 5.24 days preperihelion to −0.35 ± 0.16 at 74.41 days postperihelion. Contrastingly, the radial profile slope of 46P/Wirtanen stays fairly constant over the observed time period at −1.05 ± 0.05. Additionally, we find that the radial profile of 46P/Wirtanen is azimuthally dependent on the sky-plane-projected solar position angle, while that of 45P/HMP is not. These results suggest that comets 45P/HMP and 46P/Wirtanen have vastly different coma dust environments and that their dust expansion properties are distinct. As evident from these two comets, well-resolved inner comae are vital for detailed characterization of dust environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science