A recent disruption of the main-belt asteroid P/2010 A2
Publication date: 13 Oct 2010
Authors: D. Jewitt et al.,
Copyright: © 2010 Nature Publishing GroupMost inner main-belt asteroids are primitive rock and metal bodies in orbit about the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Disruption, through high-velocity collisions or rotational spin-up, is believed to be the primary mechanism for the production and destruction of small asteroids and a contributor to dust in the Sun's zodiacal cloud, while analogous collisions around other stars feed dust to their debris disks. Unfortunately, direct evidence about the mechanism or rate of disruption is lacking, owing to the rarity of the events. Here we report observations of P/2010 A2, a previously unknown inner-belt asteroid with a peculiar, comet-like morphology. The data reveal a nucleus of diameter approximately 120 metres with an associated tail of millimetre-sized dust particles. We conclude that it is most probably the remnant of a recent asteroidal disruption in February/March 2009, evolving slowly under the action of solar radiation pressure, in agreement with independent work.