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Paper: Small Comets (SCs): an Unstudied Population in the Solar System Inventory
Volume: 107, Completing the Inventory of the Solar System
Page: 289
Authors: Brandt, J. C.; A'Hearn, M. F.; Randall, C. E.; Schleicher, D. G.; Shoemaker, E. M.; Stewart, A. I. F.
Abstract: Considerable evidence argues for a substantial, but unexplored population of Small Comets (SCs), defined as icy, sublimating bodies with radii less than 1 km. Specific examples of this population are known, for example, from sungrazers and comets passing close to earth. Because SCs are intrinsically faint, their efficient detection and study requires an optimized approach. Their unique properties are: (1) a coma composed of dust and gas; (2) orbital motion; and (3) a spectrum featuring molecular bands. Search strategies must also include techniques for removing unwanted objects and suppressing background light. We present some sample calculations and observational approaches to illustrate how the search could be carried out. These are first steps to developing an efficient search program for SCs which will enable the determination of their numbers, orbital properties, and, ultimately, their physical properties, and their significance in the solar system.
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