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, 312 (5773), 561-3

A Population of Comets in the Main Asteroid Belt

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A Population of Comets in the Main Asteroid Belt

Henry H Hsieh et al. Science.

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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