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The Extraordinary Multi-tailed Main-belt Comet P/2013 P5

The Extraordinary Multi-tailed Main-belt Comet P/2013 P5

Publication date: 07 November 2013

Authors: Jewitt, D., et al.

Journal: The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Volume: 778
Issue: 1
Page: L21
Year: 2013

Copyright: IOP Publishing

Hubble Space Telescope observations of main-belt comet P/2013 P5 reveal an extraordinary system of six dust tails that distinguish this object from any other. Observations two weeks apart show dramatic morphological change in the tails while providing no evidence for secular fading of the object as a whole. Each tail is associated with a unique ejection date, revealing continued, episodic mass loss from the 0.24 +- 0.04 km radius nucleus over the last five months. As an inner-belt asteroid and probable Flora family member, the object is likely to be highly metamorphosed and unlikely to contain ice. The protracted period of dust release appears inconsistent with an impact origin, but may be compatible with a body that is losing mass through a rotational instability. We suggest that P/2013 P5 has been accelerated to breakup speed by radiation torques.

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