Cometary emission processes: fingerprints of their physical and chemical behavior
I will discuss key atomic and molecular processes in cometary atmospheres. Like comets in our solar system, it will be difficult if not impossible to directly study the physical and chemical properties of comets around other stars. Instead, we have to infer these properties from the gas and dust surrounding them. Atomic and molecular reaction such as dissociation, ionization, and charge exchange both alter gases surrounding comets. Because many reactions result in the emission of light, they also offer insight into the composition and radiation environment exocomets are exposed to. In this presentation I will provide a broad review of radiative processes in cometary atmospheres, with a particular focus on spectral modeling, observational opportunities, and anticipated challenges in the interpretation of new observations, based on our current understanding of the atomic and molecular processes occurring in the atmospheres of small, icy bodies. Close to the surface, comet atmospheres form a thermalized atmosphere tracing the irregular shape of the nucleus. Gravity is too low to retain the gas, which flows out to form a large collisionless exosphere. As such, cometary comae represent conditions that are both familiar, as well as unattainable in laboratories on Earth, necessitating state-of-the-art theoretical treatments of the relevant microphysical processes. Radiative processes offer direct diagnostics of the local conditions, as well as the macroscopic coma properties. Finally, measurements of cometary compositions are uniquely valuable because they provide information on the formation and evolution of our solar system, but extracting chemical abundances from spectroscopic measurements of the coma requires detailed models that span a broad range of physical regimes (both macroscopic and microscopic).