Thermo-physical properties of 162173 (1999 JU3), a potential flyby and rendezvous target for interplanetary missions

T. G. Müller, J. Ďurech, S. Hasegawa, M. Abe, K. Kawakami, T. Kasuga, D. Kinoshita, D. Kuroda, S. Urakawa, S. Okumura, Y. Sarugaku, S. Miyasaka, Y. Takagi, P. R. Weissman, Y. J. Choi, S. Larson, K. Yanagisawa, S. Nagayama

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Context. Near-Earth asteroid 162173 (1999 JU3) is a potential flyby and rendezvous target for interplanetary missions because of its easy-to-reach orbit. The physical and thermal properties of the asteroid are relevant for establishing the scientific mission goals and also important in the context of near-Earth object studies in general. Aims. Our goal was to derive key physical parameters such as shape, spin-vector, size, geometric albedo, and surface properties of 162173 (1999 JU3). Methods. With three sets of published thermal observations (ground-based N-band, Akari IRC, Spitzer IRS), we applied a thermophysical model to derive the radiometric properties of the asteroid. The calculations were performed for the full range of possible shape and spin-vector solutions derived from the available sample of visual lightcurve observations. Results. The near-Earth asteroid 162173 (1999 JU3) has an effective diameter of 0.87 ± 0.03 km and a geometric albedo of 0.070 ± 0.006. The χ2-test reveals a strong preference for a retrograde sense of rotation with a spin-axis orientation of λecl=73°, βecl = -62° and Psid = 7.63 ± 0.01 h. The most likely thermal inertia ranges between 200 and 600 Jm-2s -0.5 K-1, about a factor of 2 lower than the value for 25143 Itokawa. This indicates that the surface lies somewhere between a thick-dust regolith and a rock/boulder/cm-sized, gravel-dominated surface like that of 25143 Itokawa. Our analysis represents the first time that shape and spin-vector information has been derived from a combined data set of visual lightcurves (reflected light) and mid-infrared photometry and spectroscopy (thermal emission).

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA145
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2010


  • infrared: planetary systems
  • minor planets, asteroids: individual: 162173 (1999 JU3)
  • radiation mechanisms: thermal
  • techniques: photometric


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