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A Population of Comets in the Main Asteroid Belt

Science  28 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5773, pp. 561-563
DOI: 10.1126/science.1125150

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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 ∼40 kelvin) and the Oort Cloud (∼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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