NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2011A-0553

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Proposal Information for 2011A-0553


PI: Henry Hsieh, University of Hawaii (IfA), hsieh@ifa.hawaii.edu
Address: Institute for Astronomy, 2680 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

CoI: Bin Yang, University of Hawaii (IfA)
CoI: Chad Trujillo, Gemini Observatory - North
CoI: Jan Kleyna, University of Hawaii (IfA)

Title: The Sublimation-Driven Nature of Main-Belt Comet Activity

Abstract: We seek GMOS-N and GMOS-S time to obtain target-of-opportunity spectroscopy of bright newly-discovered main-belt comets (a recently-identified class of objects that exhibit comet-like activity yet are dynamically indistinguishable from main-belt asteroids) to confirm the sublimation-driven nature of their activity by detecting CN emission at 3889 Angstroms. These poorly understood objects blur the classical lines between asteroids and comets, and may have played a significant role in the primordial delivery of Earth's water. To date, it has never been unambiguously demonstrated that main-belt comet activity is due to the sublimation of ice, as in other "classical" comets, though abundant indirect evidence suggests their activity can only be explained by sublimation. If observed promptly, newly discovered main-belt comets that are sufficiently bright (compared to reference comet 9P/Tempel 1 for which CN emission has been successfully detected) and exhibit substantial coma offer excellent opportunities to detect gas emission from a main-belt object and provide the first unambiguous confirmation of present-day volatile material in the main belt.


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NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2011A-0553

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