Friday, April 5, 2013

1304.1430 (Jing Li et al.)

Recurrent Perihelion Activity in (3200) Phaethon    [PDF]

Jing Li, David Jewitt
We present a study of planet-crossing asteroid (3200) Phaethon at three successive perihelia in 2009, 2010 and 2012, using the NASA STEREO spacecraft. Phaethon is clearly detected in 2009 and 2012, but not in 2010. In both former years, Phaethon brightened unexpectedly by ~1 magnitude at large phase angles, inconsistent with the ~1 magnitude of steady fading expected from a discrete, macroscopic body over the same phase angle range. With a perihelion distance of 0.14 AU and surface temperatures up to ~1000 K, a thermal origin of this anomalous brightening is strongly suspected. However, simple thermal emission from Phaethon is too weak, by a factor >1000, to explain the brightening. Neither can ice survive on this body, ruling out comet-like sublimation. Our preferred explanation is that brightening occurs as a result of dust produced and ejected from Phaethon, perhaps by thermal fracture and/or thermal decomposition of surface minerals when near perihelion. A contribution from prompt emission by oxygen released by desiccation of surface minerals cannot be excluded. We infer an ejected mass of order 4x10^8 a_mm kg per outburst, where a_mm is the mean dust radius in millimeters. For plausible dust radii, this mass is small compared to the estimated mass of Phaethon (~2x10^14 kg) and to the mass of the Geminid stream (10^12 kg to 10^13 kg) with which Phaethon is dynamically associated. Perihelion mass-loss events like those observed in 2009 and 2012 contribute to, but do not necessarily account for the Geminids stream mass.
View original:

No comments:

Post a Comment