Document Type



Master of Science


Physics, Astrophysics

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Dr. Erika Gibb, PhD.


Gibb, Erika

Wilking, Bruce

Horne, David


On 2014 May 22 and 24 we characterized the volatile composition of the dynamically new Oort cloud comet C/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS) using the long-slit, high resolution (λ/Δλ ≈ 25,000) infrared echelle spectrograph (NIRSPEC) at the 10 m Keck 2 telescope on Maunakea, HI. We detected fluorescent emission from six primary volatiles (H2O, HCN, CH4, C2H6, CH3OH, and CO). Upper limits were derived for C2H2, NH3, and H2CO. We report rotational temperatures, production rates, and mixing ratios (relative to water). Compared with median abundance ratios for primary volatiles in other sampled Oort cloud comets, trace gas abundance ratios in C/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS) for CO, CH4, and HCN are consistent, but CH3OH and C2H6 are enriched while H2CO and possibly C2H2 are depleted. When placed in context with comets observed in the near infrared to date, the data suggest a continuous distribution of abundances of some organic volatiles among the comet population.