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Asteroid P/2016 J1 (PANSTARRS)

Title: Split Active Asteroid P/2016 J1 (PANSTARRS)
Author: Man-To Hui, David Jewitt, Xinnan Du

We present a photometric and astrometric study of the split active asteroid P/2016 J1 (PANSTARRS). The two components (hereafter J1-A and J1-B) separated either ~1500 days (2012 May to June) or 2300 days (2010 April) prior to the current epoch, with a separation speed V_sep=0.70±0.02 m s^-1 for the former scenario, or 0.83±0.06 m s^-1 for the latter. Keck photometry reveals that the two fragments have similar, Sun-like colours which are comparable to the colours of primitive C- and G-type asteroids. With a nominal comet-like albedo, p_R=0.04, the effective, dust-contaminated cross sections are estimated to be 2.4 km˛ for J1-A, and 0.5 km˛ for J1-B. We estimate that the nucleus radii lie in the range 140 \lesssim RN \lesssim 900 m for J1-A and 40 \lesssim RN \lesssim 400 m, for J1-B. A syndyne-synchrone simulation shows that both components have been active for 3 to 6 months, by ejecting dust grains at speeds ~0.5 m s^-1 with rates ~1 kg s^-1 for J1-A and 0.1 kg s^-1 for J1-B. In its present orbit, the rotational spin-up and devolatilization times of 2016 J1 are very small compared to the age of the solar system, raising the question of why this object still exists. We suggest that ice that was formerly buried within this asteroid became exposed at the surface, perhaps via a small impact, and that sublimation torques then rapidly drove it to break-up. Further disintegration events are anticipated due to the rotational instability.

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