Thermal emission spectroscopy (5.2-38 μm) of three Trojan asteroids with the Spitzer Space Telescope: Detection of fine-grained silicates

J. P. Emery, D. P. Cruikshank, J. Van Cleve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


We present thermal emission spectra (5.2-38 μm) of the Trojan asteroids 624 Hektor, 911 Agamemnon, and 1172 Aneas. The observations used the Infrared Spectrograph (IRS) on board the Spitzer Space Telescope. Emissivity spectra are created by dividing the measured Spectral Energy Distribution (SED) by a model of the thermal continuum. We employ the Standard Thermal Model (STM), allowing physical parameters (e.g., radius and albedo) to vary in order to find the best thermal continuum fit to the SED. The best-fit effective radius (R) and visible geometric albedo ( pv) for Hektor ( R = 110.0 ± 7.3, pv = 0.038-0.017+0.028) and Aneas ( R = 69.1 ± 5.1, pv = 0.044-0.014+0.020) agree very well with previous estimates, and for Agamemnon ( R = 71.5 ± 5.2, pv = 0.062-0.019+0.024) we find slightly a smaller size and higher albedo than previously derived. Other thermal models (e.g., thermophysical) result in estimates of R and pv that vary a few percent from the STM, but the resulting emissivity spectra are identical. The emissivity spectra of all three asteroids display an emissivity plateau near 10-μm and another broader rise from ∼18 to 28 μm. We interpret these as indications of fine-grained silicates on the surfaces of these asteroids. The emissivity spectra more closely resemble emission spectra from cometary comae than those from solid surfaces and measured in the laboratory for powdered meteorites and regolith analogs. We hypothesize that the coma-like emission from the solid surfaces of trojans may be due to small silicate grains being imbedded in a relatively transparent matrix, or to a very under-dense (fairy-castle) surface structure. These hypotheses need to be tested by further laboratory and theoretical scattering work as well as continued thermal emission observations of asteroids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-512
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Asteroids
  • Infrared observations
  • Spectroscopy
  • Surfaces
  • asteroids
  • composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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