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Proposal Information for 2010A-0489


PI: 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: Jack Drummond, AFRL, Starfire Optical Range
CoI: Al Conrad, W.M. Keck Observatory
CoI: Peter M. Tamblyn, Southwest Research Institute
CoI: Benoit Carry, LESIA, Observatoire de Paris
CoI: Clark R. Chapman, Southwest Research Institute
CoI: Julian Christou, Gemini Observatory
CoI: Christophe Dumas, ESO, Chile

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, 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 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, 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 Ceres will contribute to DAWN mission planning, as we have done for Rosetta. We will also target, as calibrators, objects of known size (Pluto and satellites of Saturn or Jupiter). We also propose to make deep/close searches for satellites with the NICI imager, particularly of Ceres.


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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