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Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Date: 11.3.1997 Time: 16:42 UT Exposure: 30m, 10m, 30m
Field of View: 6.2' x 4.7' Receiver: (576x387) + 5122 CCD Filter: IF 614, RX, IF 390
Instrument: D=2m, f=5.6m Observatory: Pik Terskol, Caucasus Observer: T. Credner, K. Jockers, T. Bonev

We observed the cometary H2O+, dust, and neutral CN gas with the filters IF 614, RX, and IF 390. In the above image they are represented in red, green, and blue, respectively. For the first time Wirtanens ion tail (here H2O+) could be imaged, visible as straight red diffuse band to the left side (anti-sunward direction). The blue sphere is the very extended neutral CN Coma. In contrast to this, the dust is much more concentrated and dominates the near nucleus region, here seen as yellow-green color. So one result, illustrated with this representative three color image, is that 46P/Wirtanen is dust poor and about 2-3 times less dusty than Comet Halley.

(T. Credner)

Paper 1998A&A...335L..56J

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Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie