5–14 μm Spitzer Spectra of Themis Family Asteroids

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Astronomy & Astrophysics


minor planets, asteroids: general / methods: observational / techniques: spectroscopic / infrared: planetary systems / minor planets, asteroids: individual: Themis


Context. The Themis collisional family is one of the largest and best established families in the main belt. Composed of primitive asteroids, there is evidence that water is likely present in a large fraction of its members, either in aqueously altered silicates or in water ice reservoirs. The study of the abundance of water in the outer asteroid belt is important as it may be linked to the origin of Earth’s water. Studying the Themis family can also help to constrain the compositional and thermal environment in the region of the solar nebula where these asteroids formed. Aims. Our aim is to constrain the composition and thermal properties of the surfaces of several Themis family asteroids. Methods. We present 5–14 μm spectra of 8 Themis family asteroids observed with Spitzer: (222) Lucia, (223) Rosa, (316) Goberta, (383) Janina, (468) Lina, (492) Gismonda, (515) Athalia, and (526) Jena. We determine their diameters, geometric albedos and beaming parameters using the near-Earth asteroid thermal model. Their emissivity spectra are studied in order to determine if they exhibit an emission plateau from 9 to 12 μm which has been observed in other primitive asteroids and attributed to fine-grained silicates (the Si-O stretch fundamental). Results. The derived mean albedo of our sample of Themis family asteroids is = 0.07 ± 0.02, and the mean beaming parameter is = 1.05 ± 0.10. The derived value is close to unity, which implies that the infrared beaming is not significant, there is likely little night-side emission from the asteroids, and the thermal inertia is probably low. The emissivity spectra of at least 5 of our 8 asteroids show a 9–12 μm emission plateau with spectral contrast of ~2–4%, similar but smaller than that observed in the spectra of Trojan asteroids and cometary dust. The plateau may be due to the surfaces having either small silicate grains embedded in a relatively transparent matrix, or from a very under-dense (fairy-castle) surface structure. Conclusions. The surfaces of a large fraction of Themis family asteroids with D ~ 50 km are covered by a fine grained silicate mantle as observed on Trojan asteroids of similar or larger size. The lower amplitude of the silicate emission in Themis family asteroids spectra (2–4%) with respect to that of Trojan asteroids (10–15%) could be attributed to larger dust particles, a slightly denser structure, or a lower silicate dust fraction.


© ESO, 2012