Detection of acetylene in the infrared spectrum of comet Hyakutake

Abstract

COMETS are rich in volatile materials, of which roughly 80% (by number) are water molecules1. Considerable progress2–4 is being made in identifying the other volatile species, the abundances of which should enable us to determine whether comets formed primarily from ice-covered interstellar grains5, or from material that was chemically processed in the early solar nebula6,7. Here we report the detection of acetylene (C2H2) in the infrared spectrum of comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake). The estimated abundance is 0.3–0.9%, relative to water, which is comparable to the predicted solid-phase abundance in cold interstellar clouds. This suggests that the volatiles in comet Hyakotake may have come from ice-covered interstellar grains, rather than material processed in the accretion disk out of which the Solar System formed.

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Brooke, T., Tokunaga, A., Weaver, H. et al. Detection of acetylene in the infrared spectrum of comet Hyakutake. Nature 383, 606–608 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1038/383606a0

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