Dormant Comets in the Near-Earth Asteroid Population

Michael Mommert, Alan W. Harris, Michael Mueller, Joseph L. Hora, David E. Trilling, Matthew Knight, William F. Bottke, Cristina Thomas, Marco Delbo', Josh P. Emery, Giovanni Fazio, Howard A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


The population of near-Earth objects comprises active comets and asteroids, covering a wide range of dynamical parameters and physical properties. Dormant (or extinct) comets, masquerading as asteroids, have long been suspected of supplementing the near-Earth asteroid (NEA) population. We present a search for asteroidal objects of cometary origin based on dynamical and physical considerations. Our study is based on albedos derived within the ExploreNEOs program and is extended by adding data from NEOWISE and the Akari asteroid catalog. We use a statistical approach to identify asteroids on orbits that resemble those of short-period near-Earth comets using the Tisserand parameter with respect to Jupiter, the aphelion distance, and the minimum orbital intersection distance with respect to Jupiter. We identify a total of 23 near-Earth asteroids from our sample that are likely to be dormant short-period near-Earth comets and, based on a de-biasing procedure applied to the cryogenic NEOWISE survey, estimate both magnitude-limited and size-limited fractions of the NEA population that are dormant short-period comets. We find that 0.3-3.3% of the NEA population with H = 1 km, are dormant short-period near-Earth comets. We also present an observation program that utilizes the 1.8m Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on Mt. Graham, AZ, to identify dormant comet candidates and search for activity in these objects. Our targets are NEAs on comet-like orbits, based on the dynamical criteria derived in the above study, that are accessible with the VATT (V
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1-Nov-2015
EventAmerican Astronomical Society, DPS meeting #47 - National Harbor, MD, United States
Duration: 1-Nov-201513-Nov-2015


ConferenceAmerican Astronomical Society, DPS meeting #47
CountryUnited States
CityNational Harbor, MD

Cite this