Introduction

2P/Encke trail simulation.

A simulation of comet Encke's dust trail. The comet is located at the center of the image, the Sun and orbits of the planets are shown (see Gehrz et al. 2006).

2P/Encke imaged by Spitzer.

A Spitzer Space Telescope image of comet 2P/Encke. The trail in this MIPS 24-μm image is marked with white lines (see Kelley et al. 2006 or our press release).

Comet dust trails are the collections of large (greater than 0.1 mm) particles that closely follow a comet's orbit, similar to how a contrail follows a jet. Dust trails are the youngest meteoroid streams, and when they intersect the orbit of a planet they can create meteor showers. Some asteroids have been dynamically linked to meteor showers, but dust trails have only been observed around comets.

Features morphologically similar to dust trails are occasionally observed. For example, a linear tail is observed when comet 133P/Elst-Pizarro is active (e.g., Hsieh et al. 2010, MNRAS). In this case, the grains are probably ~10-μm sized, rather than the >100-μm size I use to define dust trails. In another case, the dust from the 2007 mega-outburst of comet 17P/Holmes returns to the same region of space every orbit. Esko Lyytinen has a fantastic set of images of this phenomenon (Lyytinen et al. 2013, JIMO). This causes a line-of-sight enhancement that is linear and projected near the comet's orbit. The strange name comet astronomers use for such enhancement is "neck-line" (Fulle 2004, Comets II), and they are not necessarily made of large grains. However, these are only my opinion, and you are free to consider other trail definitions.

Remotely Observed Dust Trails

Comet / Asteroid Space-based Detection Ground-based Detection Significant Non-detection References
(1) Sykes & Walker 1992 (2) Davies et al. 1997 (3) Reach et al. 2000 (4) Ishiguro et al. 2002 (5) Ishiguro et al. 2003 (6) Lowry et al. 2003 (7) Lowry & Weissman 2003 (8) Russel 1990 (9) Jones et al. 2003 (10) Stansberry et al. 2004 (11) Kraemer et al. 2005 (12) Nesvorny et al. 2006 (13) Kelley et al. 2006 (14) Vaubaillon & Reach 2010, AJ (15) Argawal et al. 2006 (16) Reach, Kelley, & Sykes 2007 (17) Kelley, Reach, & Lien 2007 (18) Ishiguro, et, al. 2007 (19) Ishiguro 2007 (20) Sarugaku et al. 2007 (21) Ishiguro et al. 2009 (22) Bauer et al. 2011 (23) Lisse et al. 2009 (24) Arendt 2014 (25) Kelley et al. 2013
1P/Halley COBE - - 24
2P/Encke IRAS, COBE, ISO, Spitzer KPNO 2.3m, Kiso 105cm, UH 88" - 1, 3, 6, 13, 18, 24
4P/Faye Spitzer Kiso 105cm - 16, 20
7P/Pons-Winnecke IRAS - - 1
9P/Tempel 1 IRAS, Spitzer - - 1, 16
10P/Tempel 2 IRAS, Spitzer - - 1, 16
22P/Kopff IRAS, ISO, MSX, Spitzer Kiso 105cm, Palomar 200", CFHT - 1, 2, 4, 7, 11, 18, 25
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 IRAS, Spitzer - - 1, 10, 12
32P/Comas Sola Spitzer - - 16
48P/Johnson Spitzer - - 16
56P/Slaughter-Burnham Spitzer - - 16
57P/du Toit-Neujmin-Delporte - Kiso 105cm - 21
62P/Tsuchinshan 1 Spitzer - - 16, 25
65P/Gunn IRAS, Spitzer - - 1, 16
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko IRAS, Spitzer MPG/ESO 2.2m, Kiso 105cm - 1, 15, 17, 19
69P/Taylor Spitzer - - 16
71P/Clark Spitzer - - 16
73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 COBE, Spitzer - - 14, 24
74P/Smirnova-Chernykh Spitzer - - 25
78P/Gehrels 2 Spitzer - - 16
81P/Wild 2 - Kiso 105cm - 7
88P/Howell Spitzer - - 16
103P/Hartley 2 WISE, Spitzer - Spitzer 22, 23, 16
108P/Ciffreo Spitzer - - 16
111P/Helin-Roman-Crockett Spitzer - - 16
120P/Mueller 1 Spitzer - - 16
121P/Shoemaker-Holt 2 Spitzer - - 25
123P/West-Hartley Spitzer - - 16
122P/de Vico Ulysses and Pioneer (indirectly) - - 9
129P/Shoemaker-Levy 3 Spitzer - - 16
131P/Mueller 2 Spitzer - - 16
133P/Elst-Pizarro Spitzer - - 16
144P/Kushida Spitzer - - 25
169P/NEAT 22 COBE - - 24
171P/Spahr 2 Spitzer - - 25
219P/LINEAR 38 Spitzer - - 25
260P/McNaught 4 Spitzer - - 25
243P/NEAT 17 Spitzer - - 16
P/2005 T5 (Broughton) Spitzer - - 25
2201 Oljato Pioneer (indirectly) - - 8
3200 Phaethon COBE - - 24

Dust Trails Inferred from Meteor Showers

Thanks to Gary W. Kronk and his excellent web site, Comets & Meteor Showers, from which much of this list is derived (with additional help from the JPL Solar System Dynamics Group). Other references may exist and will be added as necessary.

Comet / Asteroid Related Meteor Shower References
1P/Halley eta Aquarids, Orionids -
2P/Encke Taurids Whipple & Hamid 1950
7P/Pons-Winnecke June Bootids -
8P/Tuttle Ursids -
21P/Giacobini-Zinner Draconids -
26P/Grigg-Skjellerup pi Puppids -
55P/Tempel-Tuttle Leonids -
73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 tau Herculids -
109P/Swift-Tuttle Perseids -
114P/Wiseman-Skiff martian Cepheids? Selsis et al. 2005
C/1854 L1 (Klinkerfues) epsilon Eridanids Vaubaillon & Jenniskens 2007
C/1861 G1 (Thatcher) Lyrid meteors -
C/1964 N1 (Ikeya) epsilon Geminids -
C/1911 N1 (Kiess) Aurigids Jenniskens & Vaubaillon 2008
C/1917 F1 (Mellish) December Monocerotids -
3D/Biela Andromedids -
D/1819 W1 (Blanpain) & 2003 WY25 Phoenicids Jenniskens & Lyytinen 2005
3200 Phaethon Geminids Whipple 1983
2003 EH1 & possibly C/1490 Y1 Quandrantids Jenniskens 2004

To Do List

  1. Cross reference the Meteor Data Center
  2. Add a meaningful list of comets without known trails.
  3. Discuss 3200 Phaethon and other asteroid-meteor shower links.

Revision History