Principal Investigator: Michael Kelley
PI Institution: University of Maryland
Title: First detection of volatiles from a main-belt comet
We propose an archival research project to study gas coma volatiles in a main-belt comet with the James Webb Space Telescope's NIRSpec and NIRCam instruments. Main-belt comets have dynamical properties consistent with an origin in the asteroid belt, but exhibit the behavior of comets. Despite repeated mass-loss episodes during perihelion passages consistent with water-ice driven sublimation, volatiles have never been observed at any main-belt comet. Measuring their volatile production rates and coma dust-to-gas mass ratios provides an better understanding of the subsurface preservation of water ice in the asteroid belt. With observations of 238P/Read from GTO program 1252, we expect to exceed previous upper limits by two orders of magnitude, yielding the first detection of water in an MBC coma, or a physically meaningful upper limit.