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The discovery of cometary activity in near-earth asteroid (3552) don quixote

Mommert, M. and Hora, J.L. and Harris, Alan W. and Reach, W. T. and Emery, J.P. and Thomas, C.A. and Mueller, M. and Cruikshank, D. P. and Trilling, D. and Delbo, M. and Smith, H.A. (2014) The discovery of cometary activity in near-earth asteroid (3552) don quixote. The Astrophysical Journal, 781 (25). American Astronomical Society. doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/781/1/25. ISSN 0004-637X.

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Official URL: http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/781/1/25/


The near-Earth object (NEO) population, which mainly consists of fragments from collisions between asteroids in the main asteroid belt, is thought to include contributions from short-period comets as well. One of the most promising NEO candidates for a cometary origin is near-Earth asteroid (3552) Don Quixote, which has never been reported to show activity. Here we present the discovery of cometary activity in Don Quixote based on thermal–infrared observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope in its 3.6 and 4.5μm bands. Our observations clearly show the presence of a coma and a tail in the 4.5μm but not in the 3.6μm band, which is consistent with molecular band emission from CO2. Thermal modeling of the combined photometric data on Don Quixote reveals a diameter of 18.4 (+0.3 −0.4) km and an albedo of 0.03 (+0.02 −0.01), which confirms Don Quixote to be the third-largest known NEO. We derive an upper limit on the dust production rate of 1.9 kg s−1 and derive a CO2 gas production rate of (1.1 ± 0.1) × 10^26 molecules s−1. Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph spectroscopic observations indicate the presence of fine-grained silicates, perhaps pyroxene rich, on the surface of Don Quixote. Our discovery suggests that CO2 can be present in near-Earth space over a long time. The presence of CO2 might also explain that Don Quixote’s cometary nature remained hidden for nearly three decades.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/88614/
Document Type:Article
Title:The discovery of cometary activity in near-earth asteroid (3552) don quixote
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iDORCID Put Code
Hora, J.L.Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, MA 02138-1516, USAUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Harris, Alan W.UNSPECIFIEDhttps://orcid.org/0000-0001-8548-8268UNSPECIFIED
Reach, W. T.USRA, SOFIA, Nasa Ames Research Center, CA 94035, USAUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Emery, J.P.Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, TN 37996, USAUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Thomas, C.A.NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USAUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Mueller, M.SRON, 9700 AV Groningen, The NetherlandsUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Cruikshank, D. P.NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USAUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Trilling, D.Northern Arizona University, PO Box 6010, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USAUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Delbo, M.Universite de Nice Sophia Antipolis, FranceUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Smith, H.A.Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, MA 02138-1516, USAUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date:20 January 2014
Journal or Publication Title:The Astrophysical Journal
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:Yes
Gold Open Access:No
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
EditorsEmailEditor's ORCID iDORCID Put Code
Publisher:American Astronomical Society
Keywords:comets: general – infrared: planetary systems – minor planets, asteroids: individual (3552 Don Quixote)
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Space Exploration
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R EW - Space Exploration
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Exploration of the Solar System
Location: Berlin-Adlershof
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Planetary Research > Leitungsbereich PF
Deposited By: Harris, Prof. Alan
Deposited On:26 May 2014 08:53
Last Modified:29 Nov 2023 13:44

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