The Presence of Dust and Ice Scattering in X-ray Emissions from Comets [HEAP]

X-ray emissions from cometary atmospheres were modeled from first principles using charge-exchange interaction with solar wind ions as well as coherent scattering of solar X-rays from dust and ice grains. Scattering cross sections were interpolated over the 1 nm – 1 cm grain radius range using approximations based on the optically thin or thick nature of grains with different sizes. The theoretical emission model was compared to Chandra observations of Comets ISON and Ikeya-Zhang due to their high signal-to-noise ratios and clearly defined spectral features. Comparing the observed intensities to the model showed that the charge-exchange mechanism accurately reproduced the emission spectra below 1 keV while dust and ice scattering was negligible. Examining the 1-2 keV range found dust and ice scattering emissions to agree well with observations while charge-exchange contributions were insignificant. Spectral features between the scattering model and observations also trended similarly over the 1-2 keV range. The dust and ice density within the cometary atmosphere $n$ was varied with respect to grain size $a$ as the function $n(a) \propto a^{-\alpha}$, with Ikeya-Zhang requiring $\alpha = 2.5$ and ISON requiring $\alpha = 2.2$ to best fit the observed spectral intensities. These grain size dependences agreed with independent observations and simulations of such systems. The overall findings demonstrate evidence of significant scattering emissions present above 1 keV in the analyzed cometary emission spectra and that dust/ice density dependence on grain radius $a$ may vary significantly between comets.

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B. Snios, J. Lichtman and V. Kharchenko
Wed, 6 Dec 17

Comments: Accepted to ApJ, 6 pages, 2 figures