Astronomy:596 Scheila

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596 Scheila
596 Scheila, 5 minute exposure, Dec. 12, 2010.jpg
596 Scheila outbursting as seen in a 5 min photo with a 24" telescope
Discovered byAugust Kopff
Discovery siteHeidelberg Observatory
Discovery date21 February 1906
(596) Scheila
Named afterSheila
Minor planet categorymain-belt[1]
main-belt comet[2]
Orbital characteristics[1]
Epoch 4 September 2017 (JD 2458000.5)
Uncertainty parameter 0
Observation arc111.19 yr (40,611 days)
Aphelion3.4062 AU
Perihelion2.4490 AU
2.9276 AU
Orbital period5.01 yr (1,830 days)
Mean anomaly21.266°
Mean motion0° 11m 48.48s / day
Longitude of ascending node70.606°
Physical characteristics
Mean radius56.67±1.15 km (IRAS)
Mean density2.0 g/cm3 (assumed)[3]
2.5 g/cm3 (assumed)[4]
Equatorial escape velocity
60 m/s (calculated)[3]
75 m/s (calculated)[4]
Rotation period15.8480 h (0.66033 d)[1]
Geometric albedo0.0379±0.002[1]
PCD (Tholen)[1]
Apparent magnitude11.67 to 15.32
Absolute magnitude (H)8.90[1]

Scheila (minor planet designation: 596 Scheila) is a main-belt asteroid[1] and main-belt comet[2] orbiting the Sun. It was discovered on 21 February 1906 by August Kopff from Heidelberg.[1] Kopff named the asteroid after a female English student with whom he was acquainted.[5]


On 11 December 2010, Steve Larson of the Catalina Sky Survey detected a comet-like appearance to asteroid Scheila: it displayed a "coma" of about magnitude 13.5.[6] Inspection of archival Catalina Sky Survey observations showed the activity was triggered between 11 November 2010 and 3 December.[7] Imaging with the 2-meter Faulkes Telescope North revealed a linear tail in the anti-sunward direction and an orbital tail, indicative of larger slower particles.[8]

When first detected it was unknown what drove the ejecta plumes. Scheila's gravity is too large for electrostatics to launch dust.[2] Cometary outgassing could not be ruled out until detailed spectroscopic observations indicated the absence of gas in Scheila's plumes.[4] Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Swift Gamma Ray Burst Mission's UV-optical telescope make it most likely that Scheila was impacted at ~5 km/s by a previously unknown asteroid ~35 meters in diameter.[3][4] In 2010, the Hubble Space Telescope observed the aftermath of a catastrophic collision that destroyed[dubious ] the much smaller asteroid P/2010 A2. Each asteroid the size of Scheila might be hit by an impactor 10–100 meters in diameter approximately every 1000 years, so with 200 asteroids of this size or bigger in the asteroid belt, we can observe a collision as often as every 5 years.[4]

Scheila last came to perihelion on 2012 May 19.[1]

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 "JPL Small-Body Database Browser: 596 Scheila (1906 UA)". 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 David C. Jewitt. "Main Belt Comets". UCLA, Department of Earth and Space Sciences. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Jewitt, David; Weaver, H.; Mutcher, M.; Larson, S.; Agarwal, J. (2011). "Hubble Space Telescope Observations of Main Belt Comet (596) Scheila". Astrophysical Journal Letters 733 (1): L4. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/733/1/l4. Bibcode2011ApJ...733L...4J. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Bodewits, Dennis; Kelley, M. S.; Li, J. -Y.; Landsman, W. B.; Besse, S.; A'Hearn, M. F. (2011). "Collisional Excavation of Asteroid (596) Scheila". Astrophysical Journal Letters 733 (1): L3. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/733/1/L3. Bibcode2011ApJ...733L...3B. 
  5. Schmadel, Lutz D. (2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 61. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3. 
  6. Ernesto Guido; Giovanni Sostero (2010-12-12). "Comet-like appearance of (596) Scheila". Remanzacco Observatory in Italy (blog). 
  7. Mike Simonsen (2010-12-12). "A Comet Masquerading as an Asteroid". Simostronomy (blog). 
  8. Richard Miles's posting on Yahoo minor planet mailing list (MPML)

External links