Tuesday, April 9, 2013

1304.1814 (Jessica Agarwal et al.)

Dynamics of Large Fragments in the Tail of Active Asteroid P/2010 A2    [PDF]

Jessica Agarwal, David Jewitt, Harold Weaver
We examine the motions of large fragments at the head of the dust tail of active asteroid P/2010 A2. In previous work we showed that these fragments were ejected from the primary nucleus in early 2009, either following a hypervelocity impact or by rotationally induced break-up. Here, we follow their positions through a series of Hubble Space Telescope images taken during the first half of 2010. The orbital evolution of each fragment allows us to constrain its velocity relative to the main nucleus after leaving its sphere of gravitational influence. We find that the fragments constituting a prominent X-shaped tail feature were emitted in a direction opposite to the motion of the asteroid and towards the south of its orbital plane. Derived emission velocities of these primary fragments range between 0.02 and 0.3 m/s, comparable to the ~0.08 m/s gravitational escape speed from the nucleus. Their sizes are on the order of decimeters or larger. We obtain the best fits to our data with ejection velocity vectors lying in a plane that includes the nucleus. This may suggest that the cause of the disruption of P/2010 A2 is rotational break-up.
View original: http://arxiv.org/abs/1304.1814

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