2I/Borisov: A C2 depleted interstellar comet

C. Opitom, A. Fitzsimmons, E. Jehin, Y. Moulane, O. Hainaut, K. J. Meech, B. Yang, C. Snodgrass, M. Micheli, J. V. Keane, Z. Benkhaldoun, J. T. Kleyna

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Aims. The discovery of the first active interstellar object 2I/Borisov provides an unprecedented opportunity to study planetary formation
processes in another planetary system. In particular, spectroscopic observations of 2I allow us to constrain the composition of its
nuclear ices.
Methods. We obtained optical spectra of 2I with the 4.2 m William Herschel and 2.5 m Isaac Newton telescopes between 2019
September 30 and October 13, when the comet was between 2.5 au and 2.4 au from the Sun. We also imaged the comet with
broadband filters on 15 nights from September 11 to October 17, as well as with a CN narrow-band filter on October 18 and 20, with
the TRAPPIST-North telescope.
Results. Broadband imaging confirms that the dust coma colours (B-V=0.820.02, V-R=0.460.03, R-I=0.440.03,
B-R=1.280.03) are the same as for Solar System comets. We detect CN emission in all spectra and in the TRAPPIST narrow-band
images with production rates between 1:6 1024 and 2:1 1024 molec/s. No other species are detected. We determine three-sigma
upper limits for C2, C3, and OH production rates of 6 1023 molec/s, 2 1023 molec/s and 2 1027 molec/s, respectively, on October
02. There is no significant increase of the CN production rate or A(0)f during our observing period. Finally, we place a three-sigma
upper limit on the Q(C2)/Q(CN) ratio of 0.3 (on October 13). From this, we conclude that 2I is highly depleted in C2, and may have a
composition similar to Solar System carbon-chain depleted comets.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • astro-ph.EP


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