Asteroids 87887 – 415992: the youngest known asteroid pair?
1 Institute of Astronomy, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, V Holešovičkách 2, 18000 Prague, Czech Republic
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2 FMFI, Comenius University, Mlynská dolina F1, 842 48 Bratislava, Slovakia
3 Astronomical Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Fričova 298, 25165 Ondřejov, Czech Republic
Received: 11 July 2016
Accepted: 27 August 2016
Context. Pairs of asteroids, that is, couples of single bodies on tightly similar heliocentric orbits, were recently postulated as a new category of objects in the solar system. They are believed to be close twins to binary and multiple systems.
Aims. Ages of the known pairs range from about 15 kyr to nearly a million years. Beyond the upper limit, the pairs disperse in the background population of asteroids and become difficult to detect. Below the lower limit, the pairs should be easily recognizable if they exist and are discovered by surveys. Using the available data, we analyze the possible existence of very young asteroid pairs with clearly proven ages ≤ 10 kyr.
Methods. We searched for candidate very young asteroid pairs in the current catalog of asteroid orbits. After a preliminary analysis, we selected the most promising case of the small asteroids (87887) 2000 SS286 and (415992) 2002 AT49. We collected photometric observations to determine their rotation periods and absolute magnitudes.
Results. The rotation period of (87887) 2000 SS286 is 5.7773 ± 0.0004 h. Analysis of the data for (415992) 2002 AT49 indicates as the most probable period 2.6366 ± 0.0003 h, but other solutions are still possible. The composite light curves of the two asteroids have very low amplitudes, 0.22 and 0.12 mag, suggesting roundish shapes. Our observations also allow us to determine the absolute magnitude in R band HR = 14.99 ± 0.04 and HR = 16.24 ± 0.03 for the primary and secondary components. A transformation to the visible band provides H = 15.44 ± 0.05 and H = 16.69 ± 0.04. These two asteroids experienced a very close encounter, probably a formation event, some 7.4 ± 0.3 kyr ago. The formal extension of our numerical runs backward in time reveal that these close encounters may have continued, starting from ≃ 45 kyr ago. However, based on tests using synthetic fission events, we argue that the older age solutions might be the true solution only at ≃ (10−15)% level, assuming their low initial separation velocity is of between 10−20 cm s-1. This means that 87887–415992 probably is the youngest known asteroid pair in our dataset with a reliable determined age.
Key words: celestial mechanics / minor planets, asteroids: general
© ESO, 2016