Physical and dynamical characterisation of the unbound asteroid pair 7343-154634

Duddy, S. R.; Lowry, S. C.; Wolters, S. D.; Christou, A.; Weissman, P.; Green, S. F. and Rozitis, B. (2012). Physical and dynamical characterisation of the unbound asteroid pair 7343-154634. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 539, article no. A36.



Context. Models have shown that asteroids can undergo fission if their rate of rotation is steadily increased. The forces acting to pull the asteroid apart exceed the material strength and gravitational force holding the asteroid together and material can escape from the surface of the asteroid. Initially forming a binary asteroid system, the components are capable of decoupling at low relative velocity from their mutual orbit if their mass ratio is less than 0.2. A number of asteroids with very similar orbital elements have been shown to have had very recent (<1 Myr) encounters at distances smaller than the Hill sphere radius of the larger of the asteroids. The mass ratio of the asteroids in each pair is estimated to be less than 0.2, suggesting that these unbound pairs are the result of rotational fission.

Aims. We determine whether the asteroids in one such unbound pair, (7343) Ockeghem and (154 634) 2003 XX28, share a common composition, indicative of asteroids formed from a common parent and further constrain a likely formation age for this pair.

Methods. We have obtained spectroscopic observations of each asteroid covering the wavelength range 0.45 to 1.0 microns. Using thermal observations we have measured the size and albedo of (7343) Ockeghem. Combined with optical lightcurve data of both asteroids, we have constrained the size and density of the asteroids and estimated the strength of the Yarkovsky force experienced by both. This improved physical information has been used in new dynamical simulations of the asteroids’ orbits to better constrain a formation time of this pair.

Results. We find that the asteroids have very similar spectra consistent with an S-type taxonomy. The geometric albedo of (7343) Ockeghem, 0.20  ±  0.06 is consistent with this classification. The mass ratio range of the asteroids assuming an equal density, 0.007 to 0.065, is consistent with models of unbound asteroid pair formation. A new dynamical analysis has indicated that an absolute lower limit for the age of this pair is 400 kyr with a more likely age around 560 kyr, lower than a previous estimate of 800 kyr.

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