PI: Jayadev Rajagopal, NOAO, firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 950 N. Cherry Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
CoI: David Jewitt, UCLA
CoI: Susan Ridgway, NOAO
Title: Deep wide-field imaging of main belt comets and asteroids in their fields
Abstract: We propose to conduct a deep imaging study, using the pODI optical imager on the WIYN telescope, of selected regions of the main asteroid belt that contain a known main-belt comet (MBC), an asteroid that shows evidence of significant mass loss, seen as transient, comet-like tails and comae. We will take the first deep, wide-field images of these known active asteroids. In addition, we will use the considerable pODI field-of-view to search for direct evidence of very low-level mass-loss activity in the sample of main belt asteroids that will also be detected. A recent search for MBC candidates in the TALCS asteroid survey done at CFHT did not find new MBC candidates, but claimed that there is statistically significant evidence for very low level activity, measured over the ensemble of the asteroids. If true, this would be of significant scientific interest for all the reasons that apply to the MBCs themselves, in that they could be repositories of primordial water, and a supply source both for volatiles on earth, and dust in debris disks in general. In order to test this possibility, and further characterize the mass-loss phenomenon in known cases of MBC activity, we propose to observe two ~ 1 sq. degree fields around known MBCs to significantly deeper levels than TALCS and with better resolution. This project will also help characterize the pODI system: the sensitivity, quality of the PSF over the wide-field, guiding and efficiency, and the data reduction pipeline.