The accelerating spin of 9P/Tempel 1

M.J.S. Belton (Belton Space Exploration Initiatives, LLC) and M. Drahus

(Max-Planck-Institut fuer Sonnensystemforschung)


Deep Impact approach photometry has been analyzed using the dynamical techniques introduced by Drahus and Waniak (2006). Clear indications of acceleration (0.70 +/- 0.24 x 10-7 h-2) in the spin rate are found together with a spin period of 40.850 +/- 0.017 h at the mid point of the data set (June 2.38304, 2005 UT). This measurement of acceleration in the spin is similar to that deduced independently from a combination of spin rate measurements derived from the Deep Impact Earth-based campaign (Meech et al. 2005), Spitzer observations (Lisse et al. 2005), and Deep Impact approach data (A'Hearn et al. 2005). Estimates of the spin rate from these sources (Belton et al. 2007) at epochs between 1999 and 2006 were coupled through the 2005 perihelion passage using a heuristic spin rate change model based on non-gravitational torques due to the outflow of H2O. This model yields a preliminary estimate of 1.15×10-7 h-2 for the acceleration of the spin at the mid point of the data set; it also suggests that the net torque is dominated by activity in the Northern hemisphere of the nucleus. Although non-constant periodicities have been reported for a few comets before, the evidence has never been detected as clearly and unambiguously as for 9P/Tempel 1. This discovery strongly impacts the preparations for the Stardust-NExT mission ( scheduled to arrive at the comet in 2011.


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