Exploring Properties of Comet 2P/Encke
Authors:Brian Chi, Brian and Cynthia Chi and Farr, Cynthia Farr
- Laura Woodney, Professor, California State University, San Bernardino
- Carol Hood, Professor, California State University, San Bernardino
Comet 2P/Encke was first discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1786, but was named in 1819 after Johann Franz Encke, the calculator of its orbit. The comet has an orbital period of three years and our observations of it first began in September 2013. However, Encke was previously observed by our mentor, Dr. Woodney in 2003 and again in 2007. Comets have an axial spin, or pole orientation, that can sometimes be determined from the shapes their jets create. However, jet features are difficult to observe without the proper image processing due to their relative brightness with the symmetric components of gas or dust emissions from the active nucleus. An unusual property of 2P/Encke is that it has little optically detectable dust, but brightness from the gas emission still obscures the nucleus. In order to accurately observe the jets the images taken must be reduced and enhanced with different imaging techniques. We reduced and enhanced the images taken from 2007 with IDL and ATV. We flat corrected and bias subtracted the images, then we enhanced the images by azimuthal median division. The images were then unwrapped by using polar coordinates to enhance the spiraling sunward fan away from the center of the comet. Encke is still in the process of being observed through November 2013. Our current images are undergoing the same imaging techniques and the data will be analyzed. The purpose is to use orientation and outflow of the jet material to determine the pole orientation and rotation period of the comet.