Physical characterisation of near-Earth asteroid (1620) Geographos: reconciling radar and thermal-infrared observations

Rozitis, B. and Green, S. F. (2014). Physical characterisation of near-Earth asteroid (1620) Geographos: reconciling radar and thermal-infrared observations. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 568, article no. A43.



Context. The Yarkovsky (orbital drift) and YORP (spin state change) effects play important roles in the dynamical and physical evolution of asteroids. Thermophysical modelling of these observed effects, and of thermal-infrared observations, allows a detailed physical characterisation of an individual asteroid to be performed.

Aims. We perform a detailed physical characterisation of near-Earth asteroid (1620) Geographos, a potential meteor stream source and former spacecraft target, using the same techniques as previously used for (1862) Apollo.

Methods. We use the advanced thermophysical model (ATPM) on published light-curve, radar, and thermal-infrared observations to constrain the thermophysical properties of Geographos. The derived properties are used to make detailed predictions of the Yarkovsky orbital drift and YORP rotational acceleration, which are then compared against published measurements to determine Geographos’s bulk density.

Results. We find that Geographos has a thermal inertia of 340-100+140 J m-2 k-1s-1/2, a roughness fraction of ≥50%, and a bulk density of 2100-450+550 kg m-3 when using the light-curve-derived shape model with the radar-derived maximum equatorial diameter of 5.04 ± 0.07 km. It is also found that the radar observations had overestimated the z-axis in Geographos’s shape model because of their near-equatorial view. This results in a poor fit to the thermal-infrared observations if its effective diameter is kept fixed in the model fitting.

Conclusions. The thermal inertia derived for Geographos is slightly higher than the typical values for a near-Earth asteroid of its size, and its derived bulk density suggests a rubble-pile interior structure. Large uncertainties in shape model z-axes are likely to explain why radar and thermal-infrared observations sometimes give inconsistent diameter determinations for other asteroids.

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