Sublimation-Driven Activity in Main-Belt Comet 313p/Gibbs

Henry H. Hsieh, Olivier Hainaut, Bojan Novaković, Bryce Bolin, Larry Denneau, Alan Fitzsimmons, Nader Haghighipour, Jan Kleyna, Rosita Kokotanekova, Pedro Lacerda, Karen J. Meech, Marco Micheli, Nick Moskovitz, Eva Schunova, Colin Snodgrass, Richard J. Wainscoat, Lawrence Wasserman, Adam Waszczak

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We present an observational and dynamical study of newly discovered main-belt comet 313P/Gibbs. We find that the object is clearly active both in observations obtained in 2014 and in precovery observations obtained in 2003 by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, strongly suggestingthat its activity is sublimation-driven. This conclusion is supported by a photometric analysis showing an increase in the total brightness of the comet over the 2014 observing period, and dust modeling resultsshowing that the dust emission persists over at least three months during both active periods, where we find start dates for emission nolater than 2003 July 24 ± 10 for the 2003 active period and 2014 July 28 ± 10 for the 2014 active period. From serendipitous observations by the Subaru Telescope in 2004 when the object was apparently inactive, we estimate that the nucleus has an absolute R-band magnitude of HR = 17.1 ± 0.3, corresponding to aneffective nucleus radius of re ∼ 1.00 ± 0.15 km.The object’s faintness at that time means we cannot rule out the presence of activity, and so this computed radius should be consideredan upper limit. We find that 313P’s orbit is intrinsically chaotic, having a Lyapunov time of Tl = 12,000 yr and beinglocated near two three-body mean-motion resonances with Jupiter andSaturn, 11J-1S-5A and 10J+12S-7A, yet appears stable over >50 Myr in an apparent example of stable chaos. We furthermore find that 313P is the second main-belt comet, after P/2012 T1 (PANSTARRS), to belong tothe ∼155 Myr old Lixiaohua asteroid family.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L16-L22
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2015


  • comets: general
  • comets: individual: 313P&Gibbs
  • minor planets
  • asteroids: general


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