The Main Belt Asteroid Shape Distribution from Gaia Data Release 2

Michael Mommert, Andrew McNeill, David E. Trilling, Nicholas Moskovitz, Marco Delbo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Gaia Data Release 2 includes observational data for 14099 pre-selected asteroids. From the sparsely sampled G-band photometry, we derive lower-limit light curve amplitudes for 11665 main belt asteroids (MBA) in order to provide constraints on the distribution of shapes in the asteroid main belt. Assuming a triaxial shape model for each asteroid, defined through the axial aspect ratios a > b and b = c, we find an average b/a = 0.80 ± 0.04 for the ensemble, which is in agreement with previous results. By combining the Gaia data with asteroid properties from the literature, we investigate possible correlations of the aspect ratio with size, semimajor axis, geometric albedo, and intrinsic color. Based on our model simulations, we find that MBAs greater than 50 km in diameter on average have higher b/a aspect ratios (are rounder) than smaller asteroids. We furthermore find significant differences in the shape distribution of MBAs as a function of the other properties that do not affect the average aspect ratios. We conclude that a more detailed investigation of shape distribution correlations requires a larger data sample than is provided in Gaia Data Release 2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number139
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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