Main-Belt Comets

Since the discovery of 133P/Elst-Pizarro in 1996, an object moving in a typical Main Asteroid Belt orbit, but displaying a comet-like tail, nine more of those objects have been identified. They constitute a new class of small Solar System bodies, the ``missing link'' between asteroids and comets. Three of those objects fall into the ``disrupted asteroids'' subgroup, where the activity is suspected to be driven by either a collision with another asteroid, or by a rotational break-up. The remaining seven objects are classified as Main-belt comets (MBCs), whose activity is generally believed to be water-ice-driven, i.e., comet-like. The discovery of these MBCs has raised many questions on their origin, their dynamical lifetimes, their activation mechanism(s), and their possible contribution to the water on Earth. Since 2010, we are conducting a program of observations and modeling of the dust environment of these objects, using mostly the 10.4m Gran Telescopio Canarias. In this talk, I will give an overview of the main results found so far.



26/09/2013 - 14:30
Dr. Fernando Moreno