Andy Lopez-Oquendo: Physical Characterization of Small Near-Earth Objects Using Spectrophotometry and Thermal Models

Friday, 26 January 2024 2 p.m. — 3 p.m. MST

Gemini North Hilo Base Facility | 670 N A’ohoku Place Hilo, Hawaii, 96720, USA

Gemini North Talks
Andy Lopez-Oquendo (Northern Arizona University)

Characterizing asteroids throughout the Solar System provides us the unique capability to understand the formation and evolution since their early stages. Asteroids are the leftovers from the building block material that did not accrete into larger bodies during the planet’s formation, thus holding valuable protoplanetary nebula conditions on them without being severely altered. Studying Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) is important for several reasons. Besides constituting a threat to human civilization, the orbits of this group of small airless bodies made them more ideal targets since the fact they come close to us provides the advantage of being easier to observe.

Here, I will discuss two powerful tools to physically characterize small NEOs by determining their taxonomy, albedo, diameter, and thermal inertia. First, I will present an overview of our NEO taxonomic survey carried out with spectrophotometric observations from the 3.8 m UKIRT facility. Then, I will summarize our ongoing NEO observational campaign using the newly refurbished Mid-Infrared Spectrometer and Imager (MIRSI) at the 3-meter NASA Infrared Telescope Facility. Finally, I will briefly highlight the future of MIRSI on NEOs science and its importance for planetary defense.

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