While initial reports from the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., categorized object 2013 US10 as a very large near-Earth asteroid, new observations now indicate that it is, in fact, a long-period comet, and it is now designated C/2013 US10 (Catalina).
The comet was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 31, 2013, and linked to earlier pre-discovery Catalina observations made on Sept. 12. The initial orbit suggested this object is a large, short period, near-Earth asteroid, as reported here yesterday. An updated orbit, issued today by the Minor Planet Center, removed the September 12 observations that belong to another object and include earlier pre-discovery August and September observations made by the Catalina Sky Survey, the ISON-HD observatory in Russia and Hawaii's Pan-STARRS group.
The new orbit indicates that this object is in a long-period, near parabolic orbit about the sun. Furthermore, observations made last night at the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope indicate the object is showing modest cometary activity, which means that yesterday's rough estimate for the object's size (about 12 miles, or 20 kilometers) must now be completely revised. A new size estimate is not yet available, but the object could very well be much smaller than yesterday's estimate.
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