The Main Points. Asteroids. Lecture #22: Asteroids 3/14/2008

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1 Lecture #22: Asteroids Discovery/Observations Where are they? How many are there? What are they like? Where did they come from? Reading: Chapter 12.1 Astro 102/104 1 The Main Points Asteroids are small, rocky objects that exhibit surprisingly diverse compositions and surface geologies Most asteroids are found in the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter or in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune, but many exist in near-earth space too Astro 102/104 3 Asteroids "Asteroid" is Greek for "star-like" Asteroids are small, rocky objects that look star-like in telescopes, except they move across the sky like the planets do The first asteroid was discovered in 1801 Ceres, about 940 km diameter There may be 1,000,000+ >1 km diameter Asteroids are discovered in telescopic images because they move at a different speed across the sky than the stars "Vermin of the skies" (!) QuickTime and a GIF decompressor are needed to see this picture. Astro 102/104 4 Astro 102/

2 The Largest Asteroids 1 Ceres: Diam. = 940 km, a = 2.77 AU Discovered by Guiseppe Piazzi in 1801 Piazzi was searching for a "missing planet" between Mars and Jupiter 2 Pallas: D=540 km, a=2.77 AU, disc Vesta: D=510 km, a=2.36 AU, disc main belt asteroids have D > 250 km Astro 102/104 6 Where are the Asteroids? Asteroids can be found throughout the solar system, but there are two main populations: The Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter The Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune's orbit Most of the asteroids with well-determined orbits are in the main belt Other smaller populations exist too Trojans, Apollos, Amors, Centaurs,... Astro 102/104 8 The Main Asteroid Belt The main belt extends from about 2.2 to 3.3 AU Most of the orbits lie at or near (±10 to 20 ) the plane of the ecliptic As of 2008, almost 200,000 main belt asteroids have well-known orbital parameters The number has been recently increasing by a few thousand per year Astro 102/104 Edge on 9 because of new telescopic search programs A snapshot of the locations of all known inner solar system asteroids as of March 2007 (outer circle is the orbit of Jupiter) Astro 102/

3 Gaps in the Belt... Astronomer Daniel Kirkwood (1886) noticed that the main belt is not uniformaly populated Asteroids "missing" from places where disturbances by Jupiter are strongest These places are where resonances with Jupiter's orbit occur May explain why no planet here: Jupiter only allowed small Astro 102/104 bodies to coalesce Other Asteroid Groups Trojans About 1000 asteroids leading and trailing Jupiter by 60 Centaurs About 100 asteroids found between Jupiter & Neptune Kuiper Belt Objects More than 1000 large asteroids beyond Neptune Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) Atens (6%): orbits interior to Earth's Apollos (62%): orbits that cross Earth's Amors (32%): orbits exterior to Earth's (e.g. 433 Eros) All these populations are incompletely counted Astro 102/ A snapshot of the locations of all known outer solar system asteroids as of today (outer circle is the orbit of Neptune) Astronomers believe that there may by 100,000 or more Kuiper Belt Objects still to be discovered... The solar system does not end at Pluto! Astro 102/ How Many Asteroids are There? Number of Near-Earth Asteroids (a model) The number of asteroids of a given diameter D is proportional to 1/D 2 : a collisional distribution For example: 3 > 500 km 13 > 250 km hundreds > 100 km 10,000+ > 10 km Total: >1,000,000 > 1 km Most of the MASS is in the largest few asteroids Total mass of all asteroids is only ~ 5-10% mass of the Moon Astro 102/

4 Discovering Asteroids For many years, most discoveries were random Within the past decade, dedicated surveys have begun in response to the possible threat of asteroid and comet impacts on the Earth NASA Spacewatch Program Air Force Near Earth Asteroid Tracking Program (NEAT) Lowell Observatory Near Earth Object Survey (LONEOS) Lincoln (MIT) Near Earth Asteroid Research Project (LINEAR) Catalina (Arizona) Sky Survey Tens of thousands of objects discovered, many NEAs... Astro 102/ Dedicated search programs started in the last few years have located perhaps 70% of the >1 km Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) that could pose a threat to life on Earth. Astro 102/ Asteroid Physical Properties Many diagnostic properties can be determined by telescopic remote sensing: Albedo (% of reflected sunlight) darkest are 1% to 2%, brightest are 40% to 50% Spin period (length of an asteroid "day") Shape (from radar & variations in the light curve) ) Asteroid Composition Spectroscopy and radar observations of asteroids reveal four main classes: C Type: dark, "carbon rich", albedo ~5% S Type: brighter, "stony", albedo ~20% D Type: dark, very red spectra M Type: rare "metallic" type, very radar bright C,S,D Types probably all primitive (?) M Types and other anomalous classes (like Vesta) from differentiated parent bodies Astro 102/ Astro 102/

5 (controversial!) Composition varies systematically with distance from the Sun Implies that asteroids preserve the conditions of planetary formation in the early solar system But primitive vs. differentiated issue is controversial! Astro 102/ Asteroid Geology 4 asteroids visited up close by spacecraft 951 Gaspra: Galileo flyby in Ida: Galileo flyby in Mathilde: NEAR flyby in Eros: NEAR orbital mission in Also: Spacecraft images of Martian moons Phobos and Deimos: captured asteroids? Abundant evidence for impacts, and surprising evidence for erosion and tectonism on these bodies Astro 102/ Gaspra S Type 16 x 11 x 10 km 243 Ida S Type 60 x 25 x 19 km 253 Mathilde C Type 66 x 48 x 46 km (large!) Many large craters Density only 1.3 g/cm 3 May be 50% "empty" Dactyl Ida's moon! D = 1.5 km Astro 102/ Eros S Type 31 x 13 x 13 km Many large craters Density about 2.6 g/cm 3 Geology! Astro 102/

6 Tectonic ridges: Eros appears to have been compressed and possibly even twisted during its history... Fine-grained regolith appears to be moving downhill on Eros: erosion! Last image from NEAR before its landing: very finegrained regolith! (Compare with basket ball) Eros movies from NEAR craters, boulders, & more Astro 102/ Astro 102/ Summary Asteroids are small, rocky, primitive objects thought to be remnants from the formation of the solar system There are probably more than 1 million asteroids > 1 km in size in the solar system, but their total mass is only a small fraction of the mass of the Moon Remote sensing shows that not all asteroids are alike Different compositional classes (C, S, D, M) Some asteroids have had complex internal histories Spacecraft observations show that asteroids have interesting and complex geologic histories: impacts, tectonics, erosion Astro 102/ Next Lecture Meteorites Samples from the Early Solar System Age, g, origin and evolution Classification Parent Bodies: Asteroids & Planets Reading 12.1 Astro 102/

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