|Discovered by||A. R. Gibbs|
(Mount Lemmon Survey)
|Discovery date||March 22, 2012|
|Orbital characteristics A|
|Epoch||4 February 2012 (JD 2455961.5)|
|Observation arc||11.3 years|
|No. of observations used||148|
|Semi-major axis||3.004 AU|
|Orbital period||5.21 years (1902 days)|
|Earth MOID||1.88 AU|
|Jupiter MOID||2.08 AU|
|Last perihelion||16 June 2015|
|Next perihelion||29 September 2020|
It is a rare type of comet called a main-belt comet. Although most comets come from the Oort cloud or the Kuiper belt, main-belt comets are instead members of the asteroid belt that have a coma and tail. As of 2016, it is one of only 15 known main-belt comets.
Precovery observations of 331P/Gibbs in Sloan Digital Sky Survey data were found dating to August 2004, in which the object was visible as a regular asteroid. Further observations in 2014 by the Keck Observatory showed that the comet was fractured into 5 pieces and rotating rapidly, with a rotation period of only 3.2 hours. Due to the YORP effect, P/2012 F5 had begun to spin so quickly that, being a likely rubble pile, parts began to be thrown off, leaving a very long dust trail. This is very similar to 311P/PANSTARRS, being the best-established cause for main-belt comets along with impacts between small asteroids (such as with 596 Scheila and P/2010 A2 (LINEAR)).