Determining the volatile composition of Jupiter family comets 103P/Hartley 2 and 10P/Tempel 2

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We propose to use Keck 2/NIRSPEC to measure the chemical composition of two Jupiter-family comets (JFCs): 103P/Hartley 2 and 10P/Tempel 2. Infrared spectroscopy with NIRSPEC has proven to be an efficient and sensitive means of detecting volatile species in comets. We will observe Hartley 2 when its geocentric velocity is sufficient to target hypervolatiles CO and CH_4, while also sampling H_2O, CH_3OH and C_2H_6. For Tempel 2, we will conduct a sensitive search for the following molecular species: H_2O, CH_3OH, H_2CO, C_2H_6, HCN, C_2H_2 and NH_3. Comets are the least-processed remnants from the birth of the solar system, making the determination of their composition essential in understanding the formation and evolution of volatile material in our solar system. Determining and comparing the volatile chemistry of JFCs is central to our ongoing observing program, and semester 2010B provides the opportunity to determine the volatile chemistry of two JFCs in a single night. This study will provide valuable insights into the role of solar system formation conditions and processing histories in determining comet composition.

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