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Title: The discovery of cometary activity in near-Earth asteroid (3552) Don Quixote

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 4.5 μm bands. Our observations clearly show the presence of a coma and a tail in the 4.5 μm but not in the 3.6 μm band, which is consistent with molecular band emission from CO{sub 2}. Thermal modeling of the combined photometric data on Don Quixote reveals a diameter of 18.4{sub −0.4}{sup +0.3} km and an albedo of 0.03{sub −0.01}{sup +0.02}, 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{sup –1} and derive a CO{sub 2} gas production rate of (1.1 ± 0.1) × 10{sup 26} molecules s{sup –1}. Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph spectroscopic observations indicate the presence of fine-grained silicates, perhaps pyroxene rich, on the surfacemore » of Don Quixote. Our discovery suggests that CO{sub 2} can be present in near-Earth space over a long time. The presence of CO{sub 2} might also explain that Don Quixote's cometary nature remained hidden for nearly three decades.« less
Authors:
;  [1] ; ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [5] ;  [6] ;  [7] ;  [8] ;  [9]
  1. Institute of Planetary Research, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Rutherfordstr. 2, D-12489 Berlin (Germany)
  2. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138-1516 (United States)
  3. Universities Space Research Association, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, MS 232-11, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035 (United States)
  4. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, 1412 Circle Dr., Knoxville, TN 37996 (United States)
  5. NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 8800 Greenbelt Rd, Greenbelt, MD 20771 (United States)
  6. SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Postbus 800, 9700 AV Groningen (Netherlands)
  7. NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035 (United States)
  8. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northern Arizona University, P.O. Box 6010, Flagstaff, AZ 86011 (United States)
  9. UNS-CNRS-Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur, BP4229, F-06304 Nice Cedex 4 (France)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22348173
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 781; Journal Issue: 1; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; ASTEROIDS; CARBON DIOXIDE; COLLISIONS; COMETS; DUSTS; EMISSION; INTERSTITIAL HELIUM GENERATION; INTERSTITIAL HYDROGEN GENERATION; MOLECULES; SILICATE MINERALS; SILICATES; SPACE; TELESCOPES