Reconstruction of asteroid physical properties from optical photometry and thermal infrared data

Advisor: Josef Ďurech (AI MFF CUNI)

Funding: Fully funded


Time-resolved photometry of asteroids is a rich source of information from which basic physical properties of asteroids (their shape, rotation period, and spin axis direction) can be reconstructed with the lightcurve inversion technique. This way, thousands of asteroid models were derived and we start to map the distribution of asteroid spins and shapes in the main belt. Another large source of information about asteroids, namely their sizes, is the database of thermal infrared observations obtained with the WISE satellite. Optical and thermal infrared data can be used together to reconstruct all relevant physical parameters of an asteroid model.

The aim of this project is to combine current and future large data sets of available asteroid photometry (mainly from all-sky surveys) with thermal infrared data from WISE. Combination of these complementary data modes will enable us to accurately scale the shape models to the correct size and also to constrain thermal properties of asteroid surface by thermophysical modeling. Such joint inversion of both optical and infrared measurements has been done only for a small sample of asteroids and applying it to tens of thousands of asteroids with sufficient data will lead to a dramatic increase of the number of asteroid with known (thermo)physical parameters. Reconstructing physical properties for a large fraction of the known asteroid population is necessary for understanding the dynamical evolution of small bodies and of the whole solar system.