NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2009B-0557

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Proposal Information for 2009B-0557


PI: Dr. William J. Merline, Southwest Research Institute, merline@boulder.swri.edu
Address: Space Science and Instrumentation Division, 1050 Walnut St., Ste. 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, LESIA, Observatoire de Paris
CoI: Dr. Clark R. Chapman, Southwest Research Institute
CoI: Dr. Julian Christou, Gemini Observatory

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, and 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/intermediate asteroids. 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. For the resolved-disk targets and 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 optical image of an NEO binary (Merline et al. 2008b, IAUC 8977). Satellites allow a mass to be determined, and also provide a real-life lab for testing collisional models. Observations of Vesta and Lutetia, if made, will contribute to DAWN/Rosetta mission planning. We will also target, as calibrators, objects of known size (Pluto and satellites of Saturn or Jupiter). We also propose to make some of the first observations with the new Gemini-S NICI coronagraphic AO imager to make deep searches for satellites.


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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