skip to main content

Title: Evidence for differentiation of the most primitive small bodies
Context. Dynamical models of Solar System evolution have suggested that the so-called P- and D-type volatile-rich asteroids formed in the outer Solar System beyond Neptune’s orbit and may be genetically related to the Jupiter Trojans, comets, and small Kuiper belt objects (KBOs). Indeed, the spectral properties of P- and D-type asteroids resemble that of anhydrous cometary dust. Aims. We aim to gain insights into the above classes of bodies by characterizing the internal structure of a large P- and D-type asteroid. Methods. We report high-angular-resolution imaging observations of the P-type asteroid (87) Sylvia with the Very Large Telescope Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument. These images were used to reconstruct the 3D shape of Sylvia. Our images together with those obtained in the past with large ground-based telescopes were used to study the dynamics of its two satellites. We also modeled Sylvia’s thermal evolution. Results. The shape of Sylvia appears flattened and elongated (a/b ~1.45; a/c ~1.84). We derive a volume-equivalent diameter of 271 ± 5 km and a low density of 1378 ± 45 kg m −3 . The two satellites orbit Sylvia on circular, equatorial orbits. The oblateness of Sylvia should imply a detectable nodal precession which contrasts more » with the fully-Keplerian dynamics of its two satellites. This reveals an inhomogeneous internal structure, suggesting that Sylvia is differentiated. Conclusions. Sylvia’s low density and differentiated interior can be explained by partial melting and mass redistribution through water percolation. The outer shell should be composed of material similar to interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) and the core should be similar to aqueously altered IDPs or carbonaceous chondrite meteorites such as the Tagish Lake meteorite. Numerical simulations of the thermal evolution of Sylvia show that for a body of such a size, partial melting was unavoidable due to the decay of long-lived radionuclides. In addition, we show that bodies as small as 130–150 km in diameter should have followed a similar thermal evolution, while smaller objects, such as comets and the KBO Arrokoth, must have remained pristine, which is in agreement with in situ observations of these bodies. NASA Lucy mission target (617) Patroclus (diameter ≈140 km) may, however, be differentiated. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more » ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; « less
Award ID(s):
1743015
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10298303
Journal Name:
Astronomy & Astrophysics
Volume:
650
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
A129
ISSN:
0004-6361
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Context. CM-like asteroids (Ch and Cgh classes) are a major population within the broader C-complex, encompassing about 10% of the mass of the main asteroid belt. Their internal structure has been predicted to be homogeneous, based on their compositional similarity as inferred from spectroscopy and numerical modeling of their early thermal evolution. Aims. Here we aim to test this hypothesis by deriving the density of the CM-like asteroid (41) Daphne from detailed modeling of its shape and the orbit of its small satellite. Methods. We observed Daphne and its satellite within our imaging survey with the Very Large Telescope extrememore »adaptive-optics SPHERE/ZIMPOL camera and complemented this data set with earlier Keck/NIRC2 and VLT/NACO observations. We analyzed the dynamics of the satellite with our Genoid meta-heuristic algorithm. Combining our high-angular resolution images with optical lightcurves and stellar occultations, we determine the spin period, orientation, and 3D shape, using our ADAM shape modeling algorithm. Results. The satellite orbits Daphne on an equatorial, quasi-circular, prograde orbit, like the satellites of many other large main-belt asteroids. The shape model of Daphne reveals several large flat areas that could be large impact craters. The mass determined from this orbit combined with the volume computed from the shape model implies a density for Daphne of 1.77 ± 0.26 g cm −3 (3 σ ). This densityis consistent with a primordial CM-like homogeneous internal structure with some level of macroporosity (≈ 17%). Conclusions. Based on our analysis of the density of Daphne and 75 other Ch/Cgh-type asteroids gathered from the literature, we conclude that the primordial internal structure of the CM parent bodies was homogeneous.« less
  2. Context. Asteroid (7) Iris is an ideal target for disk-resolved imaging owing to its brightness ( V ~ 7–8) and large angular size of 0.33′′ during its apparitions. Iris is believed to belong to the category of large unfragmented asteroids that avoided internal differentiation, implying that its current shape and topography may record the first few 100 Myr of the solar system’s collisional evolution. Aims. We recovered information about the shape and surface topography of Iris from disk-resolved VLT/SPHERE/ZIMPOL images acquired in the frame of our ESO large program. Methods. We used the All-Data Asteroid Modeling ( ADAM ) shapemore »reconstruction algorithm to model the 3D shape of Iris, using optical disk-integrated data and disk-resolved images from SPHERE and earlier AO systems as inputs. We analyzed the SPHERE images and our model to infer the asteroid’s global shape and the morphology of its main craters. Results. We present the 3D shape, volume-equivalent diameter D eq = 214 ± 5 km, and bulk density ρ = 2.7 ± 0.3 g cm −3 of Iris. Its shape appears to be consistent with that of an oblate spheroid with a large equatorial excavation. We identified eight putative surface features 20–40 km in diameter detected at several epochs, which we interpret as impact craters, and several additional crater candidates. Craters on Iris have depth-to-diameter ratios that are similar to those of analogous 10 km craters on Vesta. Conclusions. The bulk density of Iris is consistent with that of its meteoritic analog based on spectroscopic observations, namely LL ordinary chondrites. Considering the absence of a collisional family related to Iris and the number of large craters on its surface, we suggest that its equatorial depression may be the remnant of an ancient (at least 3 Gyr) impact. Iris’s shape further opens the possibility that large planetesimals formed as almost perfect oblate spheroids. Finally, we attribute the difference in crater morphology between Iris and Vesta to their different surface gravities, and the absence of a substantial impact-induced regolith on Iris.« less
  3. Aims. Asteroid (31) Euphrosyne is one of the biggest objects in the asteroid main belt and it is also the largest member of its namesake family. The Euphrosyne family occupies a highly inclined region in the outer main belt and contains a remarkably large number of members, which is interpreted as an outcome of a disruptive cratering event. Methods. The goals of this adaptive-optics imaging study are threefold: to characterize the shape of Euphrosyne, to constrain its density, and to search for the large craters that may be associated with the family formation event. Results. We obtained disk-resolved images ofmore »Euphrosyne using SPHERE/ZIMPOL at the ESO 8.2 m VLT as part of our large program (ID: 199.C-0074, PI: Vernazza). We reconstructed its 3D shape via the ADAM shape modeling algorithm based on the SPHERE images and the available light curves of this asteroid. We analyzed the dynamics of the satellite with the Genoid meta-heuristic algorithm. Finally, we studied the shape of Euphrosyne using hydrostatic equilibrium models. Conclusions. Our SPHERE observations show that Euphrosyne has a nearly spherical shape with the sphericity index of 0.9888 and its surface lacks large impact craters. Euphrosyne’s diameter is 268 ± 6 km, making it one of the top ten largest main belt asteroids. We detected a satellite of Euphrosyne – S/2019 (31) 1 – that is about 4 km across, on a circular orbit. The mass determined from the orbit of the satellite together with the volume computed from the shape model imply a density of 1665 ± 242 kg m −3 , suggesting that Euphrosyne probably contains a large fraction of water ice in its interior. We find that the spherical shape of Euphrosyne is a result of the reaccumulation process following the impact, as in the case of (10) Hygiea. However, our shape analysis reveals that, contrary to Hygiea, the axis ratios of Euphrosyne significantly differ from those suggested by fluid hydrostatic equilibrium following reaccumulation.« less
  4. Context. With an estimated diameter in the 320–350 km range, (704) Interamnia is the fifth largest main belt asteroid and one of the few bodies that fills the gap in size between the four largest bodies with D > 400 km (Ceres, Vesta, Pallas and Hygiea) and the numerous smaller bodies with diameter ≤200 km. However, despite its large size, little is known about the shape and spin state of Interamnia and, therefore, about its bulk composition and past collisional evolution. Aims. We aimed to test at what size and mass the shape of a small body departs from amore »nearly ellipsoidal equilibrium shape (as observed in the case of the four largest asteroids) to an irregular shape as routinely observed in the case of smaller ( D ≤ 200 km) bodies. Methods. We observed Interamnia as part of our ESO VLT/SPHERE large program (ID: 199.C-0074) at thirteen different epochs. In addition, several new optical lightcurves were recorded. These data, along with stellar occultation data from the literature, were fed to the All-Data Asteroid Modeling algorithm to reconstruct the 3D-shape model of Interamnia and to determine its spin state. Results. Interamnia’s volume-equivalent diameter of 332 ± 6 km implies a bulk density of ρ = 1.98 ± 0.68 g cm −3 , which suggests that Interamnia – like Ceres and Hygiea – contains a high fraction of water ice, consistent with the paucity of apparent craters. Our observations reveal a shape that can be well approximated by an ellipsoid, and that is compatible with a fluid hydrostatic equilibrium at the 2 σ level. Conclusions. The rather regular shape of Interamnia implies that the size and mass limit, under which the shapes of minor bodies with a high amount of water ice in the subsurface become irregular, has to be searched among smaller ( D ≤ 300 km) less massive ( m ≤ 3 × 10 19 kg) bodies.« less
  5. Context. The vast majority of the geophysical and geological constraints (e.g., internal structure, cratering history) for main-belt asteroids have so far been obtained via dedicated interplanetary missions (e.g., ESA Rosetta, NASA Dawn). The high angular resolution of SPHERE/ZIMPOL, the new-generation visible adaptive-optics camera at ESO VLT, implies that these science objectives can now be investigated from the ground for a large fraction of D ≥ 100 km main-belt asteroids. The sharp images acquired by this instrument can be used to accurately constrain the shape and thus volume of these bodies (hence density when combined with mass estimates) and to characterizemore »the distribution and topography of D ≥ 30 km craters across their surfaces. Aims. Here, via several complementary approaches, we evaluated the recently proposed hypothesis that the S-type asteroid (89) Julia is the parent body of a small compact asteroid family that formed via a cratering collisional event. Methods. We observed (89) Julia with VLT/SPHERE/ZIMPOL throughout its rotation, derived its 3D shape, and performed a reconnaissance and characterization of the largest craters. We also performed numerical simulations to first confirm the existence of the Julia family and to determine its age and the size of the impact crater at its origin. Finally, we utilized the images/3D shape in an attempt to identify the origin location of the small collisional family. Results. On the one hand, our VLT/SPHERE observations reveal the presence of a large crater ( D ~ 75 km) in Julia’s southern hemisphere. On the other hand, our numerical simulations suggest that (89) Julia was impacted 30–120 Myrs ago by a D ~ 8 km asteroid, thereby creating a D ≥ 60 km impact crater at the surface of Julia. Given the small size of the impactor, the obliquity of Julia and the particular orientation of the family in the (a,i) space, the imaged impact crater is likely to be the origin of the family. Conclusions. New doors into ground-based asteroid exploration, namely, geophysics and geology, are being opened thanks to the unique capabilities of VLT/SPHERE. Also, the present work may represent the beginning of a new era of asteroid-family studies. In the fields of geophysics, geology, and asteroid family studies, the future will only get brighter with the forthcoming arrival of 30–40 m class telescopes like ELT, TMT, and GMT.« less