An observational test--the detection of a hydrogen coma around comets at large heliocentric distances--is proposed for determining whether comets were formed by the agglomeration of unaltered, ice-coated, interstellar grains. Laboratory experiments showed that amorphous water ice traps H2, D2, and Ne below 20 K and does not release them completely until the ice is heated to 150 K. Gas/ice ratios as high as 0.63 are obtainable. Thus, if the ice-coated interstellar grains were not heated above approximately 110 K, prior to their agglomeration into cometary nuclei, the inward propagating heat waves should release from the comets a continuous flux of molecular hydrogen. This flux would exceed that of water molecules at approximately 3 AU preperihelion and approximately 4 AU postperihelion.
|State||Published - 1 Jan 1988|