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A basin-free spherical shape as an outcome of a giant impact on asteroid Hygiea

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalNature Astronomy
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Abstract

(10) Hygiea is the fourth largest main belt asteroid and the only known asteroid whose surface composition appears similar to that of the dwarf planet (1) Ceres1,2, suggesting a similar origin for these two objects. Hygiea suffered a giant impact more than 2 Gyr ago3 that is at the origin of one of the largest asteroid families. However, Hygeia has never been observed with sufficiently high resolution to resolve the details of its surface or to constrain its size and shape. Here, we report high-angular-resolution imaging observations of Hygiea with the VLT/SPHERE instrument (~20 mas at 600 nm) that reveal a basin-free nearly spherical shape with a volume-equivalent radius of 217 ± 7 km, implying a density of 1,944 ± 250 kg m 3 to 1σ. In addition, we have determined a new rotation period for Hygiea of ~13.8 h, which is half the currently accepted value. Numerical simulations of the family-forming event show that Hygiea’s spherical shape and family can be explained by a collision with a large projectile (diameter ~75–150 km). By comparing Hygiea’s sphericity with that of other Solar System objects, it appears that Hygiea is nearly as spherical as Ceres, opening up the possibility for this object to be reclassified as a dwarf planet.

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Field of science, Statistics Finland