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(4015) Wilson-Harrington: An Extinct Comet?. Alessondra Springmann SpaceGrant Final Presentation 8/20/2009. Characterizing Asteroids by their Colors and Orbits. Talk Overview. What is an asteroid? Photometry (4015) Wilson-Harrington: an extinct comet?

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4015 wilson harrington an extinct comet

(4015) Wilson-Harrington: An Extinct Comet?

Alessondra Springmann

SpaceGrant Final Presentation


Characterizing Asteroids by their Colors and Orbits

talk overview
Talk Overview
  • What is an asteroid?
  • Photometry
    • (4015) Wilson-Harrington: an extinct comet?
    • (21) Lutetia: color change as it rotates?
  • Astrometry
    • Near-Earth Objects (NEOs): Orbit Recovery
asteroids in the wild


Asteroids in the Wild

Main Belt Asteroids

Near Earth Asteroids

Trojan Asteroids

asteroid formation the early days
Asteroid Formation: The Early Days

Orbital resonances from planets excited material in the asteroid belt, preventing material in this region from forming a planet

Larger asteroids formed early in the solar system’s history

Smaller asteroids are the products of later collisions [Bottke et al. 2005]


Measuring changes in brightness of astronomical objects

As an asteroid rotates, it reflects changing amounts of light to the observer

Produces sinusoidal lightcurve

4015 wilson harrington
(4015) Wilson-Harrington

Discovered as a comet in 1949

On a cometary orbit

No cometary activity observed in the 60 years since its discovery

Near-Earth object

4015 wilson harrington2
(4015) Wilson-Harrington

Object’s light is combined with background stars’ for most of the observations

Have to reject “apulse” data points

Future work: subtract signal from stars so that asteroid light is not combined with star light

21 lutetia
(21) Lutetia

Main belt asteroid

Target of the ESA Rosetta mission

Surface composition characteristics hotly debated (rocky? metallic?)

Can we get color information as a function of rotational phase?

21 lutetia1
(21) Lutetia

PLOT GOES HERE; it’s on lab; I’ll get it tomorrow

21 lutetia2
(21) Lutetia

PLOT GOES HERE; will insert tomorrow

near earth objects
Near-Earth Objects

Unstable orbits (a few million years before they’re ejected from the solar system or collide with another object)

Some objects are comets from either the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud

neo recovery
NEO Recovery

Initial observations (of a few hours on one night) are not enough to constrain an orbit

Important to be certain about orbits


Paul Weissman

Stephen Lowry

James Bauer


Caltech SFP Office

  • Bottke, Durda, Nesvorny, Jedicke, Morbidelli, Vokrouhlicky, & Levison, 2005, "The fossilized size distribution of the main asteroid belt", Icarus 175:111
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