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Observations of OH are a useful proxy of the water production rate (Q H2O) and outflow velocity (VH2O) in comets. From wide-field images taken on 1997 March 28 and April 8 that capture the entire scale length of the OH coma of comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp), we obtain Q OH from the model-independent method of aperture summation and Q H2O from the OH photochemical branching ratio, BROH. Using an adaptive ring summation algorithm, we extract the radial brightness distribution of OH 0-0 band emission out to cometocentric distances of up to 10 to the sixth power km, both as azimuthal averages and in quadrants covering different position angles relative to the comet-Sun line. These profiles are fitted using both fixed and variable velocity two-component spherical expansion models to estimate VOH with increasing distance from the nucleus. The OH coma of Hale-Bopp was more spatially extended than those of previous comets, and this extension is best matched by a variable acceleration of H 2O and OH that acted across the entire coma, but was strongest within 1-2 × 104 km from the nucleus. Our models indicate that VOH at the edge of our detectable field of view (10 to the sixth power km) was ∼2-3 times greater in Hale-Bopp than for 1P/Halley class comet at 1 AU, which is consistent with the results of more sophisticated gas-kinetic models, extrapolation from previous observations of OH in comets with QH2O > 10 to the twenty-ninth power s superscript -1, and direct radio measurements of the outer coma Hale-Bopp OH velocity. The likely source of this acceleration is thermalization of the excess energy of dissociation of H2O and OH over an extended collisional coma. When the coma is broken down by quadrants in position angle, we find an azimuthal asymmetry in the radial distribution that is characterized by an increase in the spatial extent of OH in the region between the orbit-trailing and anti-Sunward directions. Model fits specific to this area and comparison with radio OH measurements suggest greater acceleration here, with VOH ∼ 1.5 times greater at a 10 to the sixth power km cometocentric distance than elsewhere in the coma. We discuss several mechanisms that may have acted within the coma to produce the observed effect.

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The Astrophysical Journal



American Astronomical Society

Additional Information

Dr. Mierkiewicz was not affiliated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at the time this paper was published.