Letter to the Editor
The triple near-Earth asteroid (153591) 2001 SN263: an ultra-blue, primitive target for the Aster space mission⋆
LESIA – Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, UPMC Univ. Paris 06, Univ. Paris-Diderot,
2 Observatório Nacional, rua General José Cristino 77, 20921-400 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
3 Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7, 4 rue Elsa Morante, 75013 Paris, France
4 Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, 059 60 Tatranská Lomnica, Slovak Republic
5 Universidade Estadual Paulista, Grupo de Dinâmica Orbital & Planetologia, CEP 12516-410, SP Guaratinguetà, Brazil
Received: 21 June 2014
Accepted: 17 July 2014
Context. The Brazilian Aster project plans a space mission to rendezvous and characterize (153591) 2001 SN263, one of the only two known triple near-Earth asteroids (NEAs). Improving the knowledge of its physical properties is necessary to optimize the mission planning and science return.
Aims. We study the surface composition and physical nature of 2001 SN263 by analyzing and comparing its reflectance spectra with laboratory spectra of minerals and meteorites.
Methods. We performed spectroscopic observations of 2001 SN263 using the UV-to-NIR X-Shooter spectrograph at the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT). Complementary photometric observations of the target were acquired with the FORS2 instrument.
Results. We find B-type, featureless convex spectra (Themis- or Polana-like). 2001 SN263 presents the bluest visible spectrum ever observed for small bodies in the solar system, even bluer than NEAs Phaethon and Bennu. The spectra suggest that the surface composition is organic- and magnetite-rich, similar to that of heated CI carbonaceous chondrites. Phyllosilicates may be abundant as well. We find hints of a coarse-grained surface and composition variety within the triple system.
Conclusions. Both the large grain size and surface variability might be connected to the formation of the triple system. The Aster mission will have the intriguing possibility of checking current models of asteroid binary formation.
Key words: minor planets, asteroids: individual: (153591) 2001 SN263 / techniques: spectroscopic / techniques: photometric
© ESO, 2014