37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 52 TNOs and Centaurs
Oral, Thursday, September 8, 2005, 2:00-3:50pm, Law LG19

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[52.03] Dynamical and Physical Models of Ecliptic Comets

L. Dones, D. C. Boyce, H. F. Levison (SwRI), M. J. Duncan (Queen's University)

In most simulations of the dynamical evolution of the cometary reservoirs, a comet is removed from the computer only if it is thrown from the Solar System or strikes the Sun or a planet. However, ejection or collision is probably not the fate of most active comets. Some, like 3D/Biela, disintegrate for no apparent reason, and others, such as the Sun-grazers, 16P/Brooks 2, and D/1993 F2 Shoemaker-Levy 9, are pulled apart by the Sun or a planet. Still others, like 107P/Wilson Harrington and D/1819 W1 Blanpain, are lost and then rediscovered as asteroids. Historically, amateurs discovered most comets. However, robotic surveys now dominate the discovery of comets (http://www.comethunter.de/). These surveys include large numbers of comets observed in a standard way, so the process of discovery is amenable to modeling. Understanding the selection effects for discovery of comets is a key problem in constructing models of cometary origin. To address this issue, we are starting new orbital integrations that will provide the best model to date of the population of ecliptic comets as a function of location in the Solar System and the size of the cometary nucleus, which we expect will vary with location. The integrations include the gravitational effects of the terrestrial and giant planets and, in some cases, nongravitational jetting forces. We will incorporate simple parameterizations for mantling and mass loss based upon detailed physical models. This approach will enable us to estimate the fraction of comets in different states (active, extinct, dormant, or disintegrated) and to track how the cometary size distribution changes as a function of distance from the Sun. We will compare the results of these simulations with bias-corrected models of the orbital and absolute magnitude distributions of Jupiter-family comets and Centaurs.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
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