Volume 537, January 2012
|Number of page(s)||9|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||10 January 2012|
The activity of main belt comets
INAF - IASF, Area Ricerca Tor Vergata, via del Fosso del Cavaliere
2 Departement Cassiopée, Université de Nice - Sophia Anthipolis, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, CNRS, boulevard de l’Observatoire, BP 4299, 0634 Nice Cedex 4, France
3 INAF - IFSI, Area Ricerca Tor Vergata, via del Fosso del Cavaliere 100, 00133 Rome, Italy
Received: 24 June 2011
Accepted: 18 October 2011
Context. Main belt comets represent a recently discovered class of objects. They are quite intriguing because, while having a Tisserand invariant value higher than 3, are showing cometary activity.
Aims. We study the activity of the main belt comets making the assumption that they are icy-bodies and that the activity has been triggered by an impact. We try to determine the characteristics of this activity. We also try to determine if the nowadays impact rate in the main asteroid belt is compatible with the hypothesis of an activity triggered by a recent impact.
Methods. Due to the fact that the main belt comets can be considered as a kind of comets, we apply a thermal evolution model developed for icy bodies in order to simulate their activity. We also apply a model to derive the impact rate, with respect to the size of the impactor, in the main belt.
Results. We demonstrate that a stable activity can result from a recent impact, able to expose ice-rich layers, and that the impact rate in the main belt is compatible with this explanation.
Key words: minor planets, asteroids: general / comets: general / comets: individual: P/2005 U1 (Read)
© ESO, 2012
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