Doctoral Dissertations

Keywords and Phrases

Comets: general; Comets: individual - C/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS); 2P/Encke; 21P/Giacobini-Zinner; Techniques: spectroscopic


"Understanding the evolution of the solar system, as well as its current volatile content, requires knowledge of the initial conditions present in the solar nebula. As some of the first objects to accrete in the solar nebula, cometary nuclei are among the most primitive remnants of solar system formation, and their present-day volatile composition likely reflects the composition and conditions where (and when) they formed. As such, the volatile compositions of cometary nuclei may serve as 'fossils' of solar system formation. High-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy offers a valuable tool for sampling the primary volatile (i.e., ices subliming directly from the nucleus) composition of comets via analysis of fluorescence emission in cometary comae. Sampling fluorescence emission from a suite of primary volatiles has become possible from state-of-the-art ground-based observatories.

An overarching goal of comet volatile composition studies is determining whether comets can be classified according to their volatile content and what this reveals about the history of the early solar system. Early work produced encouraging results, but recent work has left pressing questions regarding whether a compositional taxonomy based on near-infrared measurements is feasible, as well as how to place such measurements into a meaningful context. These include questions such as: Are observed systematic compositional differences between ecliptic comets and Oort cloud comets the result of evolutionary effects or reflective of formative conditions? Is temporal variability in coma composition a common phenomenon, and if so, how can present-day measurements be related to natal solar system conditions? This work examines these questions in the context of near-infrared measurements of an Oort cloud comet, a Jupiter-family comet, and an ecliptic comet. The interplay between evolutionary effects, formative conditions, and temporal variability is examined in the context of the evolving composition-based taxonomy and the interpretation of the results of comet composition studies"--Abstract, page iii.


Gibb, Erika
Parris, Paul Ernest, 1954-

Committee Member(s)

Bonev, Boncho
Wilking, Bruce
Yamilov, Alexey



Degree Name

Ph. D. in Physics


United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Earth and Space Science Fellowship


Presented to the graduate faculty of the Missouri University of Science and Technology and University of Missouri--St. Louis in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

This work has been generously supported by NASA Headquarters under the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship Program (Grant NNX16AP49H).


Missouri University of Science and Technology

Publication Date

Summer 2019

Journal article titles appearing in thesis/dissertation

  • The composition of comet C/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS) and the distribution of primary volatile abundances among comets
  • A tale of "two" comets: The primary volatile composition of comet 2P/Encke across apparitions and implications for cometary science
  • Probing the evolutionary history of comets: An investigation of the hypervolatiles CO, CH4, and C2H6 in the Jupiter-family comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner


xii, 123 pages

Note about bibliography

Includes bibliographic references (pages 110-122).


© 2019 Nathaniel Xavier Roth, All rights reserved.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

File Type




Thesis Number

T 11600

Electronic OCLC #


Included in

Physics Commons