A quasi 3-D model of an outburst pattern that explains the behavior of Comet 17P/Holmes

Yael Hillman, Dina Prialnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Upon discovery, in November of 1892, Comet 17P/Holmes was experiencing a very strong explosion, which repeated itself on an even greater scale in October of 2007. Using a numerical scheme, based on mass and energy conservation laws, a model is presented simulating the outbursting nature of Comet 17P/Holmes by regarding the comet as a stratified sphere. The model, adopting input parameters for physical and chemical characteristics, produces output for volatile, water and dust production rates and temperature distribution. Providing the model with known properties of Comet 17P/Holmes, and then filling in the blanks based on properties of other short period comets, allowed the derivation of a specific chemical composition and thermal conductivity that produced a recurring outburst pattern every ∼30years, while within these there is a near-perihelion outburst every ∼10 2years. The specific composition that generated the desired results, consists of an ice-dust ratio of 0.6/0.4, and mass fractions of 0.015, 0.002 and 0.0005 for CO, CO 2 and NH 3 accordingly. The effective dust conductivity accompanying this composition is K d=0.7W/(mK). The results are consistent with observations on multiple levels, including the various production rates during outbursts and the time span between near perihelion outbursts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-159
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Comets
  • Comets, Composition
  • Comets, Nucleus


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