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Asteroids From Observations to Models

Asteroids From Observations to Models

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06/15/2009

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Asteroids. From Observations to Models
D. Hestroffer
1
and P. Tanga
2
1
IMCCE, UMR CNRS 8028, Observatoire de Paris. 77 Av. Denfert RochereauF-75014 Paris, France
hestro@imcce.fr
2
Observatoire de Nice, ept. Cassini, B.P. 4229, F-06304 Nice, France
tanga@obs-nice.fr
Summary.
Abstract We will discuss some specific applications to the rotation stateand the shapes of moderately large asteroids, and techniques of observations puttingsome emphasis on the HST/FGS instrument.
1 Introduction
Although their name suggest their are point-like, asteroids are from long time wellknown to show variations in their lightcurves with shape and rotation [1]. Observedlightcurves can for instance be explained by spinning tri-axial ellipsoids, but evenbetter by convex shapes in uniform rotation [2, 3]. Also the rotation period of thesebodies seem to have some connection with their size. For instance asteroids largerthan approximately 0.15km do not spin faster than
10cycles/day (see Fig. 4). A.Harris [4] has suggested that this limit is not the tail of some statistical distribu-tion but does correspond to the limit of disruption of a gravitationally bound andcohesionless
rubble pile 
. We will discuss in the following on the inversion of aster-oids lightcurves, on rotational state of asteroids in general, on possible figures of equilibrium for rubble pile asteroids, and illustrate how we can derive informationon asteroids shape and size from high resolution observation with the HST/FGSinterferometer.
2 Lightcurves
One of the first and most important source of knowledge on the asteroids physicalproperties was obtained from photometric lightcurve observations. These reveal theasteroid’s rotation period, their brightness variation due to their non spherical shape,albedo spots, light scattering of their surface, ... Two typical examples of asteroidslightcurve are given in Fig. 1. In particular one can see from Sylvia’s compositelightcurve that the brightness variation is periodic, and that there are two – almostidentical – maxima and minima. Thus Sylvia’s brightness variation can be well beapproached by a tri-axial ellipsoid in rotation. So that analysis of several lightcurvesobtained at different apparitions provide the pole orientation and the axis ratio of 
 
2 D. Hestroffer and P. Tangathe ellipsoid shape model. In the more general case however, lightcurves are notalways so smoothly sinusoidal, but more irregular and asymmetric with additionalextrema, ... (see the lightcurve of Hebe in Fig. 1 for an illustration). Promisingresults in the lightcurve inversion problem have been obtained recently [5].
Fig. 1.
Composite lightcurves of two asteroids from the Asteroid Photometric Cat-alogue [2]. Upper panel: (87) Sylvia observed on 1987 Feb. 3.3 (
 filled circles
), andFeb. 6.3 (
 filled squares
), by Weidenschilling et al. (1990). Lower panel: (6) Hebeobserved on 1987 Jun. 18 (
 filled squares
), Jun. 23 (
 filled circles
), and Jun. 27 (
open squares
) by Hutton & Blain (1988).
3 Rotation
Considering a freely rotating rigid body (Euler’s spinning top), integration of theEuler equations yields the orientation in the frame of the body of the instantaneousvelocity
Ω 
, and the orientation – via the Euler angles (
φ, θ, ψ
) – of the body in ainertial frame [6]. As noted in [7] such a dynamical system has two – generally noncommensurable – frequencies, so that the body never shows the same aspect in time.Although this exists in the solar system, there are however only a very few small
 
Asteroids. From Observations to Models 3bodies that are known to clearly show (or suspected to show) such a spin state [8]:among them one comet P/Halley [9], and one asteroid asteroid (4179) Toutatis [10].Moreover all these objects have relatively long rotation (spin) period. We shall seelater the reason for this lack of (fast) precessing bodies.Let us remind that integration of the Euler equations:
1
˙
ω
1
+ (
3
2
)
ω
2
ω
3
= 0
2
˙
ω
2
+ (
1
3
)
ω
3
ω
1
= 0
3
˙
ω
3
+ (
2
1
)
ω
1
ω
2
= 0 (1)and˙
φ
=
ω
1
sin
ψ
+
ω
2
cos
ψ
sin
θ
˙
ψ
=
ω
3
cos
θ
˙
φ
=
ω
3
cos
θ
(
ω
1
sin
ψ
+
ω
2
cos
ψ
)sin
θ
˙
θ
=
ω
1
cos
ψ
ω
2
sin
ψ
(2)gives the orientation of the asteroid principal axes with respect to an inertial frameat any epoch
t
[6, 7]. In a previous chapter by Tokieda we have also seen thatthe conservation of kinetic energy and angular momentum provides two integralrelations:2
=
1
ω
21
+
2
ω
22
+
3
ω
23
2
=
21
ω
21
+
22
ω
22
+
23
ω
23
(3)The (
x
1
,x
2
,x
3
) body-frame (see Fig. 2) is a right-handed frame associated to(
x
s
,x
i
,x
l
), and with this choice of indexing we have put
1
>
2
>
3
. In gen-eral the Euler angles are given with respect to a inertial frame where the
z
axis is– for commodity – aligned with the angular moment, and are understood as rota-tion, precession and nutation angles. In that case both angles
θ
and
ψ
are periodicfunctions of commensurable period. Putting:
k
2
=(
2
1
)(2
E
3
2
)(
3
2
)(
2
2
E
1
)
<
1and making use of the elliptic integral of the first kind
=
 
π/
20
(1
k
2
sin
2
u
)
1
/
2
du
,the period of the rotation angle˜
ψ
is [7]:
rot
= 4
 
1
2
3
(
3
2
)(
2
2
E
1
)(4)while the period of nutation
θ
is
nut
=
rot
/
2. Last, Landau & Lifchitz [7] haveshown that the angle
φ
can be obtained as a sum of two periodic functions
φ
(
t
) =
φ
1
(
t
) +
φ
2
/
(
t
) where the period of 
φ
1
(
t
) is exactly
rot
/
2 and the period of 
φ
2
(
t
) is
, which in the general case is not commensurable to
rot
. The latter period can beobtained from 2
π
rot
/
 
rot
0
˙
φ
(
t
)
dt
. For celestial bodies one may prefer to express

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