Observational and dynamical characterization of main-belt comet P/2010 R2 (La Sagra)

Hsieh, Henry H.; Yang, Bin; Haghighipour, Nader; Novaković, Bojan; Jedicke, Robert; Wainscoat, Richard J.; Denneau, Larry; Abe, Shinsuke; Chen, Wen-Ping; Fitzsimmons, Alan; Granvik, Mikael; Grav, Tommy; Ip, Wing; Kaluna, Heather M.; Kinoshita, Daisuke; Kleyna, Jan; Knight, Matthew M.; Lacerda, Pedro; Lisse, Carey M.; Maclennan, Eric; Meech, Karen J.; Micheli, Marco; Milani, Andrea; Pittichová, Jana; Schunova, Eva; Tholen, David J.; Wasserman, Lawrence H.; Burgett, William S.; Chambers, K. C.; Heasley, Jim N.; Kaiser, Nick; Magnier, Eugene A.; Morgan, Jeffrey S.; Price, Paul A.; Jørgensen, Uffe G.; Dominik, Martin; Hinse, Tobias; Sahu, Kailash and Snodgrass, Colin (2012). Observational and dynamical characterization of main-belt comet P/2010 R2 (La Sagra). Astronomical Journal, 143(5), article no. 104.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-6256/143/5/104


We present observations of the recently discovered comet-like main-belt object P/2010 R2 (La Sagra) obtained by Pan-STARRS1 and the Faulkes Telescope-North on Haleakala in Hawaii, the University of Hawaii 2.2 m, Gemini-North, and Keck I telescopes on Mauna Kea, the Danish 1.54 m telescope (operated by the MiNDSTEp consortium) at La Silla, and the Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma. An antisolar dust tail is observed to be present from 2010 August through 2011 February, while a dust trail aligned with the object's orbit plane is also observed from 2010 December through 2011 August. Assuming typical phase darkening behavior, P/La Sagra is seen to increase in brightness by >1 mag between 2010 August and December, suggesting that dust production is ongoing over this period. These results strongly suggest that the observed activity is cometary in nature (i.e., driven by the sublimation of volatile material), and that P/La Sagra is therefore the most recent main-belt comet to be discovered. We find an approximate absolute magnitude for the nucleus of HR = 17.9 ± 0.2 mag, corresponding to a nucleus radius of ~0.7 km, assuming an albedo of p = 0.05. Comparing the observed scattering surface areas of the dust coma to that of the nucleus when P/La Sagra was active, we find dust-to-nucleus area ratios of Ad /AN = 30-60, comparable to those computed for fellow main-belt comets 238P/Read and P/2008 R1 (Garradd), and one to two orders of magnitude larger than for two other main-belt comets (133P/Elst-Pizarro and 176P/LINEAR). Using optical spectroscopy to search for CN emission, we do not detect any conclusive evidence of sublimation products (i.e., gas emission), finding an upper limit CN production rate of QCN < 6 × 1023 mol s–1, from which we infer an H2O production rate of QH2O<1026 mol s–1. Numerical simulations indicate that P/La Sagra is dynamically stable for >100 Myr, suggesting that it is likely native to its current location and that its composition is likely representative of other objects in the same region of the main belt, though the relatively close proximity of the 13:6 mean-motion resonance with Jupiter and the (3,–2,–1) three-body mean-motion resonance with Jupiter and Saturn mean that dynamical instability on larger timescales cannot be ruled out.

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