DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 47. Comets IV: Nuclei, Atmospheres and Dust
Oral, Chairs: S. C. Lowry and J. Pittichova, Saturday, September 6, 2003, 1:30-3:00pm, DeAnza III

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[47.05] Are Comets 42P/Neujmin 3 and 53P/Van Biesbroeck Parts of one Comet?

J. Pittichova, K.J. Meech (IfA, UH), G.B. Valsecchi (IASFC-CNR, Italy), E.M. Pittich (AS-SAV, Slovak Republic)

We want to present preliminary results of the observations of the physical parameters of comets 42P/Neujmin 3 and 53P/Van Biesbroeck: brightness, nucleus activity, rotation period, light-curve and color changes from our first three optical observing runs (March, and May 2003) at Mauna Kea, using UH 2.2m telescope and Tek2048 CCD camera. Comets 42P/Neujmin 3 and 53P/Van Biesbroeck have very well determined orbits, and their orbital histories are very interesting. Their current orbits are not very similar to each other; however, numerical integrations have shown that both comets had a rather close approach to Jupiter in January 1850, and that, before 1850, the two orbits were nearly identical. Given the extremely low probability of a chance coincidence of the six orbital elements at a given time, the natural conclusion is that the two objects are fragments of a single comet that split sometime in the late 1849 or early 1850.

Among the known cases of split periodic comets, this one is peculiar for a number of reasons: 1. the splitting was probably not due to tidal stresses, since the 1850 encounter with Jupiter took place well outside the Roche lobe; 2. it is the only case discovered through a dynamical study; 3. in the only other case of splitting of a Jupiter family comet, that of 3D/Biela, the fragments did not survive for more than a couple of revolutions, whereas in the present case both fragments have passed perihelion more than ten times since the splitting.

If these two comets are fragments of a single parent body, then they should show a certain degree of physical and chemical similarity, which we would like to obtain from spectroscopic observation in 2004, when both comets are close to their perihelion.

Acknowledgments: Support for this work was provided by NASA Grant No. NAG5-12236 and Scientific Grant Agency VEGA of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, grant No. 2/1005/21.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
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