Atmospheres of comets: Gas dynamic models and inference of kinematic parameters
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractCometary nuclei may be our best available probes of the physical and chemical nature of the presolar nebula. However, in situ sampling of cometary nuclei to determine their composition is generally not feasible. Instead, remote spectroscopic observations of cometary comae are used to infer cometary composition. This approach relies on one's ability to model accurately the density distributions of gas and dust in the comae and a complex network of photochemical and molecular processes. Previously, a variety of theoretical models had been developed and, unfortunately, they are applicable only to a portion of the coma or to specific problems. In the first part of this thesis we introduce a preliminary version of a gas model built upon the concepts of dilute gas theory. This model is valid over the whole coma and it incorporates all previous models as its special cases, thus providing a new theoretical foundation for future cometary studies. In the second part of the thesis we discuss a spectral outflow model. This model is a special case of the dilute gas model and is tailored specifically to retrieve kinematic properties of cometary comae from velocity-resolved spectral line profiles. We review the formation of cometary spectral line profiles and we develop an analytic expression that maps three dimensional number density distributions into synthetic spectral line profiles. After discussing simplifications and Monte Carlo computational procedures, we apply the spectral outflow model to interpret infrared observations of H₂O in comets Halley and Wilson.