Friday, November 2, 2012

A new SALT asteroid publication

A manuscript describing the physical and dynamical characterization of a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA; 190491 aka 2000 FJ10) has recently been accepted for publication in A&A. Photometric data were obtained at SALT, which were combined with photometric and spectroscopic data taken at other telescopes. An absolute magnitude of 21.54 +/- 0.1 was derived, equating to a diameter of 130 +/- 20 m – in the transition zone between a gravitationally-bound rubble pile and a monolithic body. The data suggest that this is an S-type asteroid, which means that it is unlikely to be primitive. Numerical simulations of the NEA's orbit were carried out in order to investigate its dynamical history and predict future locations. The large size of the NEA, combined with its slow rotation (>2 hours) and its orbit, make it a suitable candidate for a human mission. Within the next one hundred years, the optimal launch window was found to be 2047-2059.

Tolis Christou (Armagh Obs., UK) lead the effort. The work involved researchers from a range of international institutions, including A. Mickiewicz University in Poland, the South African AStronomical Observatory, the University of Arizona in the USA, and the University of Kent and Queen's University Belfast in the UK. A copy of the article is posted online at

Figure 1. Lightcurve of 190491 from SALTICAM in the r' filter (bottom) and an SDSS comparison star (top). There are no periodic variations during a 20 minute period with peak-to-peak amplitude > 0.05 mag. The slope in the linear fit is insignificant, and the scatter of the points is caused by residual effects of the flat fielding procedure. (Figure 2 from Christou, et al., Physical and dynamical characterisation of low ∆V NEA (190491) 2000 FJ10, A& A, accepted 2012.)

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