Deuterated Water in Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) and its Implications for the Origin of Comets
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- The close approach to the Earth of comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) in March 1996 allowed searches for minor volatile species outgassing from the nucleus. We report the detection of deuterated water (HDO) through its 1(sub 01)-0(sub 00) rotational transition at 464.925 GHz using the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory. We also present negative results of a sensitive research for the J(5-4) line of deuterated hydrogen cyanide (DCN) at 362.046 GHz. Simultaneous observations of two rotational lines of methanol together with HDO in the same spectrum allow us to determine the average gas temperature within the telescope beam to be 69 +/- 10 K. We are thus able to constrain the excitation conditions in the inner coma and determine reliably the HDO production rate as (1.20 +/- 0.28) x 10(exp 26)/s on March 23-24, 1996. Available IR, UV and radio measurements lead to a water production rate of (2.1 +/- 0.5) x 10(exp 29)/s at the time of our HDO observations. The resulting D/H ratio in cometary water is thus (29 +/- 10) x 10(exp -5) in good agreement with the values of (30.8(sub - 5.3, sup +3.8) (Balsiger et al. 1995) and (31.6 +/- 3.4) x 10(exp -5) (Eberhardt et al. 1995) determined in comet P/Halley from in situ ion mass spectra. The inferred 3 a upper limit for the D/H ratio in HCN is 1%. Deuterium abundance is a key parameter for studying the origin and the early evolution of the Solar System and of its individual bodies. Our HDO measurement confirms that, in cometary water, deuterium is enriched by a factor of at least 10 relative to the protosolar ratio, namely the D/H ratio in H2 in the primitive Solar Nebula which formed from the collapse of the protosolar cloud. This indicates that cometary water has preserved a major part of the high D/H ratio acquired in this protosolar cloud through ion-molecule isotopic exchanges or grain-surface reactions and was not re-equilibrated with H2 in the Solar Nebula. Scenarios of formation of comets consistent with these results are discussed.
- Document ID: 19980035143.
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