Sulfur Chemistry at Millimeter Wavelengths in C/Hale-Bopp
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The recent availability of bright comets has given us an excellent opportunity to study cometary chemistry. Comet Hale-Bopp (1995 O1)gave us the particularly rare opportunity to study a bright and active comet for almost two years.
Our program concentrated on millimeter-wave observations of sulfur-bearing molecules in an effort to understand the total sulfur budget of the comet. Using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory 12-m telescope on Kitt Peak we monitored both the long and short-term variations in H2S, CS, and OCS, as well as observing H2CS and SO. This was the first observation of H2CS in any comet (Figure 1). Additionally, we mapped CS with the BIMA interferometer. Variations in the line profiles and changes in line intensity as large as a factor of two were seen in day to day observations of both H2S and CS. An example for H2S is shown in Figure 2.
This is the first time we can attempt to study the entire group of sulfur-bearing molecules. Models of the sulfur coma have thus far largely been based on observations of the daughter products CS and atomic sulfur made over the last 18 years using the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) satellite, coupled with radio observations of CS and H2S in several recent comets. Four new sulfur-bearing species have been observed in comets Hale-Bopp and Hyaku take, three of them parent species. The high resolution maps in CS will also allow spatial information to be included in the sulfur model for the first time.
C/Hale-Bopp is the first comet in which so many sulfur species have been observed. Analysis of the abundances of these species in comparison to the total atomic sulfur observed should reveal whether or not we can now account for all of the primary sulfur sources in comets. Perhaps the most interesting question that these observations raised was why C/Hale-Bopp appeared to contain so much more SO and SO2 (as observed by others) than any other comet. This spurred the discovery that the UV fluorescence models of these species were incorrect (S. J. Kim, this issue).
Analysis of the data and modeling of the sulfur budget are still underway.