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Science. 2006 Apr 28;312(5773):561-3. Epub 2006 Mar 23.

A population of comets in the main asteroid belt.

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1
Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, 2680 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA. hsieh@ifa.hawaii.edu

Abstract

Comets are icy bodies that sublimate and become active when close to the Sun. They are believed to originate in two cold reservoirs beyond the orbit of Neptune: the Kuiper Belt (equilibrium temperatures of approximately 40 kelvin) and the Oort Cloud (approximately 10 kelvin). We present optical data showing the existence of a population of comets originating in a third reservoir: the main asteroid belt. The main-belt comets are unlike the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud comets in that they likely formed where they currently reside and may be collisionally activated. The existence of the main-belt comets lends new support to the idea that main-belt objects could be a major source of terrestrial water.

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PMID:
16556801
DOI:
10.1126/science.1125150
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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