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Binary Asteroids in the Near-Earth Object Population

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Science  24 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5572, pp. 1445-1448
DOI: 10.1126/science.1072094

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Abstract

Radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2000 DP107 show that it is composed of an ∼800-meter-diameter primary and an ∼300-meter-diameter secondary revolving around their common center of mass. The orbital period of 1.755 ± 0.007 days and semimajor axis of 2620 ± 160 meters constrain the total mass of the system to 4.6 ± 0.5 × 1011 kilograms and the bulk density of the primary to 1.7 ± 1.1 grams per cubic centimeter. This system and other binary near-Earth asteroids have spheroidal primaries spinning near the breakup point for strengthless bodies, suggesting that the binaries formed by spin-up and fission, probably as a result of tidal disruption during close planetary encounters. About 16% of near-Earth asteroids larger than 200 meters in diameter may be binary systems.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: margot{at}gps.caltech.edu

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