Institution(s): 1. Academia Sinica
Our knowledge of main-belt comets (MBCs), which exhibit comet-like activity likely due to the sublimation of volatile ices, yet orbit in the main asteroid belt, has increased greatly since the discovery of the first known MBC, 133P/Elst-Pizarro, in 1996, and their recognition as a new class of solar system objects after the discovery of two more MBCs in 2005. I will review work that has been done over the last 10 years to improve our understanding of these enigmatic objects, including the development of systematic discovery methods and diagnostics for distinguishing MBCs from disrupted asteroids (which exhibit comet-like activity due to physical disruptions such as impacts or rotational destabilization), and observational characterization of both individual objects and the MBC population as a whole. I will also discuss efforts to understand the dynamical origins and present-day characteristics of these objects, as well as how objects in the asteroid belt might be able to preserve ice over the age of the solar system while still retaining sufficient near-surface volatility to drive observable present-day cometary activity.