We present archival observations demonstrating that main belt asteroid (6478) Gault has an extensive history of comet-like activity. Outbursts have taken place during multiple epochs since 2013 and at distances extending as far as 2.68 au, nearly aphelion. (6478) Gault is a member of the predominately S-type (i.e., volatile-poor) Phocaea family; no other main belt object of this type has ever shown more than a single activity outburst. Furthermore, our data suggest that this is the longest duration of activity caused by a body spinning near the rotational breakup barrier. If activity is indeed unrelated to volatiles, as appears to be the case, (6478) Gault represents a new class of object, perpetually active due to rotational spin-up.
- comets: individual ((6478) Gault)
- minor planets, asteroids: individual ((6478) Gault)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science