37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 7 Asteroids II
Oral, Monday, September 5, 2005, 2:00-3:50pm, Law LG19

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[7.05] Peculiar Betulia Re-visited: A Near-Earth Asteroid with a Bare-Rock Surface?

A. W. Harris, M. Mueller (DLR, Berlin), M. Delbo (Obs. Turin), S. J. Bus (Univ. Hawaii, Hilo)

The small C-type asteroid (1580) Betulia is an unusual near-Earth object (NEO) with a lightcurve that changes dramatically with changing solar phase angle, presumably due to a highly irregular shape and/or unusual topographic features. Earlier thermal-infrared observations indicated a surface of high thermal inertia, which is consistent with a lack of thermally insulating regolith. Absence of regolith might be expected in the case of small NEOs with weak gravities, which may be unable to retain collisional debris. However, recent infrared observations of other asteroids of comparable size indicate that regolith is normally present.

Knowledge of the thermal properties of NEOs is crucial for meaningful calculations of the Yarkovsky effect, which is invoked to explain the delivery of collisional fragments from the main belt into near-Earth orbits, and apparently has a significant influence on the orbital evolution of potentially hazardous NEOs.

We observed Betulia in June 2002 with the 3-m NASA Infrared Telescope Facility. Our database is sufficiently broad to allow the use of more sophisticated thermal models than were available for earlier radiometric observations. It is important to bear the unusual nature of Betulia in mind when interpreting observational data. Fits to our data obtained with a new thermophysical model imply an effective diameter of 4.57+/-0.46 km and an albedo of 0.077+/-0.015, and indicate a moderate surface thermal inertia of around 180 Jm-2s-0.5K-1. It is difficult to reconcile our results with those of earlier work, which indicate a larger diameter for Betulia and a high-thermal-inertia surface of bare rock.

While the thermal inertias of NEOs appear to be significantly higher than those of large main-belt asteroids, to our knowledge no convincing evidence has yet been found for very high-thermal-inertia ``bare-rock" surfaces amongst NEOs: further observations are required to probe smaller objects.

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