Determination of an upper limit for the water outgassing rate of main-belt comet P/2012 T1 (PANSTARRS)

O'Rourke, L.; Snodgrass, C.; de Val-Borro, M.; Biver, N.; Bockelée-Morvan, D.; Hsieh, H.; Teyssier, D.; Fernandez, Y.; Kueppers, M.; Micheli, M. and Hartogh, P. (2013). Determination of an upper limit for the water outgassing rate of main-belt comet P/2012 T1 (PANSTARRS). Astrophysical Journal Letters, 774(1), article no. L13.



A new Main-Belt Comet (MBC) P/2012 T1 (PANSTARRS) was discovered on 2012 October 6, approximately one month after its perihelion, by the Pan-STARRS1 survey based in Hawaii. It displayed cometary activity upon its discovery with one hypothesis being that the activity was driven by sublimation of ices; as a result, we searched for emission assumed to be driven by the sublimation of subsurface ices. Our search was of the H2O 110-101 ground state rotational line at 557 GHz from P/2012 T1 (PANSTARRS) with the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared on board the Herschel Space Observatory on 2013 January 16, when the object was at a heliocentric distance of 2.504 AU and a geocentric distance of 2.064 AU. Perihelion was in early 2012 September at a distance of 2.411 AU. While no H2O line emission was detected in our observations, we were able to derive sensitive 3σ upper limits for the water production rate and column density of <7.63 × 1025 molecules s–1 and of <1.61 × 1011 cm–2, respectively. An observation taken on 2013 January 15 using the Very Large Telescope found the MBC to be active during the Herschel observation, suggesting that any ongoing sublimation due to subsurface ice was lower than our upper limit.

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