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Proposal Information for 2009A-0450


PI: Dr. William J. Merline, Southwest Research Institute, merline@boulder.swri.edu
Address: Space Science and Instrumentation Division, 1050 Walnut St., Suite 300, Boulder, CO 80302, USA

CoI: Dr. Jack Drummond, AFRL, Starfire Optical Range
CoI: Dr. Al Conrad, W.M. Keck Observatory
CoI: Dr. Peter M. Tamblyn, Southwest Research Institute
CoI: Dr. Christophe Dumas, ESO, Chile
CoI: Benoit Carry, ESO, Chile
CoI: Dr. Clark R. Chapman, Southwest Research Institute

Title: High-Resolution AO Imaging of Asteroids/Satellites

Abstract: We propose to make high-resolution observations of asteroids using AO, to measure size, shape, and pole position (spin vectors), and/or to search for satellites. We have demonstrated that AO imaging allows determination of the pole/dimensions in 1 or 2 nights on a single target, rather than the years of observations with lightcurve inversion techniques that only yield poles and axial ratios, not true dimensions. Using NGS AO, we will measure several large and intermediate asteroids that are favorably placed around late Feb 2009. Accurately determining the volume from the often-irregular shape allows us to derive densities to much greater precision in cases where the mass is known, e.g., from the presence of a satellite. Satellites also provide a real-life lab for testing collisional models. Observations of Ceres and Vesta will contribute to DAWN mission planning. Our work requires observations over most of a full rotation period (typically several hours). If time and conditions permit, we will search for color variations with additional filters and make deep searches for satellites. For smaller asteroids that are particularly well placed, we will make satellite searches to expand our survey of the presence/characteristics of satellites in various populations, particularly NEOs (as we recently demonstrated by producing the first-ever near-IR image of an NEO binary (Merline et al. 2008b, IAUC 8977).


National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 950 North Cherry Avenue, P.O. Box 26732, Tucson, Arizona 85726, Phone: (520) 318-8000, Fax: (520) 318-8360



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