Characterizing the nucleus of comet 162P/Siding Spring using ground-based photometry

A. Donaldson*, R. Kokotanekova, A. Rozek, C. Snodgrass, D. Gardener, S. F. Green, N. Masoumzadeh, J. Robinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Comet 162P/Siding Spring is a large Jupiter-family comet with extensive archival lightcurve data. We report new r-band nucleus light curves for this comet, acquired in 2018, 2021, and 2022. With the addition of these light curves, the phase angles, at which the nucleus has been observed, range from 0.39 to 16.33. We absolutely calibrate the comet light curves to r-band Pan-STARRS 1 magnitudes, and use these light curves to create a convex shape model of the nucleus by convex lightcurve inversion. The best-fitting shape model for 162P has axis ratios a/b = 1.56 and b/c = 2.33, sidereal period P = 32.864 ± 0.001 h, and a rotation pole oriented towards ecliptic longitude λE = 118 ± 26 and latitude βE = −50 ± 21. We constrain the possible nucleus elongation to lie within 1.4 < a/b < 2.0 and discuss tentative evidence that 162P may have a bilobed structure. Using the shape model to correct the light curves for rotational effects, we derive a linear phase function with slope β = 0.051 ± 0.002 mag deg−1 and intercept Hr(1, 1, 0) = 13.86 ± 0.02 for 162P. We find no evidence that the nucleus exhibited an opposition surge at phase angles down to 0.39. The challenges associated with modelling the shapes of comet nuclei from light curves are highlighted, and we comment on the extent to which we anticipate that Legacy Survey of Space and Time will alleviate these challenges in the coming decade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1518-1531
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date27 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • comets: general
  • comets: individual: 162P/Siding Spring


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