P/2011 S1 (Gibbs) is an outer solar system comet or active Centaur with a similar orbit to that of the famous
29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1. P/2011 S1 (Gibbs) has been observed by the Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) sky survey
from 2010 to 2012. The resulting data allow us to perform multi-color studies of the nucleus and coma of the
comet. Analysis of PS1 images reveals that P/2011 S1 (Gibbs) has a small nucleus <4 km radius, with colors
gP1 − rP1 = 0.5 ± 0.02, rP1 − iP1 = 0.12 ± 0.02, and iP1 − zP1 = 0.46 ± 0.03. The comet remained active
from 2010 to 2012, with a model-dependent mass-loss rate of ∼100 kg s−1. The mass-loss rate per unit surface
area of P/2011 S1 (Gibbs) is as high as that of 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1, making it one of the most active
Centaurs. The mass-loss rate also varies with time from ∼40 kg s−1 to 150 kg s−1. Due to its rather circular orbit,
we propose that P/2011 S1 (Gibbs) has 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1-like outbursts that control the outgassing
rate. The results indicate that it may have a similar surface composition to that of 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1.
Our numerical simulations show that the future orbital evolution of P/2011 S1 (Gibbs) is more similar to that of
the main population of Centaurs than to that of 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1. The results also demonstrate that
P/2011 S1 (Gibbs) is dynamically unstable and can only remain near its current orbit for roughly a thousand years.
- comets: general
- Kuiper belt objects: individual: Centaur asteroid