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Title: Discovery of Main-belt Comet P/2006 VW139 by Pan-STARRS1
Authors: Hsieh, H. H
Yang, Bin
Haghighipour, N
Kaluna, H. M
Fitzsimmons, A
Denneau, L
Novakovic, B
Jedicke, R
Wainscoat, R. J
Armstrong, J. D
Duddy, S. R
Lowry, S. C
Trujillo, C. A
Micheli, M
Keane, J. V
Urban, L
Riesen, T
Meech, K. J
Abe, S
Cheng, Yu-Chi
Chen, Wen-Ping
Granvik, M
Grav, T
Ip, Wing-Huen
Kinoshita, D
Kleyna, J
Lacerda, P
Lister, T
Milani, A
Tholen, D. J
Vereš, P
Lisse, C. M
Kelley, M. S
Fernández, Y. R
Bhatt, B. C
Sahu, D. K
Kaiser, N
Chambers, K. C
Hodapp, K. W
Magnier, E. A
Price, P. A
Tonry, J. L
Keywords: Comets: general;Minor planets;Asteroids: general
Issue Date: 20-Mar-2012
Publisher: IOP Publishing
Citation: The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 748, No. 1 , L15
Abstract: The main-belt asteroid (300163) 2006 VW139 (later designated P/2006 VW139) was discovered to exhibit comet-like activity by the Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) survey telescope using automated point-spread-function analyses performed by PS1's Moving Object Processing System. Deep follow-up observations show both a short (~10'') antisolar dust tail and a longer (~60'') dust trail aligned with the object's orbit plane, similar to the morphology observed for another main-belt comet (MBC), P/2010 R2 (La Sagra), and other well-established comets, implying the action of a long-lived, sublimation-driven emission event. Photometry showing the brightness of the near-nucleus coma remaining constant over ~30 days provides further evidence for this object's cometary nature, suggesting it is in fact an MBC, and not a disrupted asteroid. A spectroscopic search for CN emission was unsuccessful, though we find an upper limit CN production rate of Q CN < 1.3 × 1024 mol s–1, from which we infer a water production rate of $Q_{\rm H_2O}<10^{26}$ mol s–1. We also find an approximately linear optical spectral slope of 7.2%/1000 Å, similar to other cometary dust comae. Numerical simulations indicate that P/2006 VW139 is dynamically stable for >100 Myr, while a search for a potential asteroid family around the object reveals a cluster of 24 asteroids within a cutoff distance of 68 m s–1. At 70 m s–1, this cluster merges with the Themis family, suggesting that it could be similar to the Beagle family to which another MBC, 133P/Elst-Pizarro, belongs.
Description: Open Access
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