Nugent, Carolyn - Exploring asteroid surfaces: thermophysical modeling with NEOWISE observations

Thermophysical modeling, a technique that combines heat transfer calculations, infrared flux measurements, and a model of the physical shape of an asteroid, is used to measure the average surface thermal inertia on a body. A thermal inertia measurement can determine if an asteroid's surface is rocky or dusty, which has implications for the object's rotational and collisional history. Foreknowledge of surface composition assists the design of robotic or manned missions to asteroids. Additionally, thermal inertia measurements allow for more precise predictions of the strength of the Yarkovsky effect, a small non-gravitational force that measurably alters the orbits of some near-Earth asteroids.

The NEOWISE mission, using the space-based Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope, observed over 158,000 minor planets, and produced a rich dataset for thermophysical modeling. We present measured thermal inertias derived by combining this dataset and radar-based asteroid shape models.


This publication makes use of data products from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which is a joint project of UCLA, and JPL/Caltech, funded by NASA. This publication also makes use of data products from NEOWISE, which is a project of JPL/Caltech, funded by the Planetary Science Division of NASA. C. Nugent is supported by a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.