Discovery and characteristics of the rapidly rotating active asteroid (62412) 2000 SY178 in the main belt

Scott S. Sheppard, Chadwick Trujillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

We report a new active asteroid in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. Object (62412) 2000 SY178 exhibited a tail in images collected during our survey for objects beyond the Kuiper Belt using the Dark Energy Camera on the CTIO 4 m telescope. We obtained broadband colors of 62412 at the Magellan Telescope, which, along with 62412's low albedo, suggests it is a C-type asteroid. 62412's orbital dynamics and color strongly correlate with the Hygiea family in the outer main belt, making it the first active asteroid known in this heavily populated family. We also find 62412 to have a very short rotation period of 3.33 ± 0.01 hours from a double-peaked light curve with a maximum peak-to-peak amplitude of 0.45 ± 0.01 mag. We identify 62412 as the fastest known rotator of the Hygiea family and the nearby Themis family of similar composition, which contains several known main belt comets. The activity on 62412 was seen over one year after perihelion passage in its 5.6 year orbit. 62412 has the highest perihelion and one of the most circular orbits known for any active asteroid. The observed activity is probably linked to 62412's rapid rotation, which is near the critical period for break-up. The fast spin rate may also change the shape and shift material around 62412's surface, possibly exposing buried ice. Assuming 62412 is a strengthless rubble pile, we find the density of 62412 to be around 1500 kg m-3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number44
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume149
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Comets: general
  • Comets: individual (62412)
  • Kuiper belt: general
  • Minor planets, asteroids: general
  • Minor planets, asteroids: individual (62412)
  • Oort cloud

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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