miércoles, 19 de febrero de 2014

The comet-asteroid P/2013 P5 by HST

P/2013 P5 PANSTARRS was discovered in Aug. 2013, displaying a cometary tail, but with orbital elements typical for a member of the inner asteroid Main Belt. We monitored the object from 2013 Aug. 30 until Oct. 05 using the CFHT, NTT, CA 1.23m, Perkins 1.8m (Lowell), and the 0.6m TRAPPIST telescopes. We measured its nuclear radius to be r < 0.25-0.29km, and its colours g-r = 0.58+/-0.05 and r-i = 0.23+/-0.06, typical for an S-class asteroid. We failed to detect any rotational light curve, with an amplitude < 0.05mag and a double-peaked rotation period < 20h. A detailed Finson-Probstein analysis of deep NTT and CFHT images indicated that the object was active since at least late January 2013 until the time of the latest observations in 2013 September, with at least two peaks of activity around 2013 June 14+/-10d and 2013 July 22+/-3d. The changes of activity level and the activity peaks were extremely sharp and short, shorter than the temporal resolution of our observations (about 1d). The dust distribution was similar during these two events, with dust grains covering at least the 1-1000{\mu}m range. The total mass ejected in grains <1mm was estimated to be 3.0 10$^6$kg and 2.6 10$^7$kg around the two activity peaks. Rotational disruption cannot be ruled out as the cause of the dust ejection. We also propose that the components of a contact binary might gently rub and produce the observed emission. Volatile sublimation might also explain what appears as cometary activity over a period of 8 months. However, while Main Belt comets best explained by ice sublimation are found in the outskirts of the Main Belt, where water ice is believed to be able to survive buried in moderately large objects for the age of the solar system deeply, the presence of volatiles in an object smaller than 300m in radius would be very surprising in the inner asteroid belt. More info : http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014arXiv1401.5740H