Earth, Moon, and Planets

, Volume 105, Issue 2–4, pp 235–247 | Cite as

E–ELT: Expected Applications to Asteroid Observations in the Thermal Infrared

  • Marco Delbó
Original Paper


Applications of the 42m European Extremely Large Telescope (E–ELT) for the physical characterization of asteroids is presented. In particular, this work focuses on the determination of sizes and other physical properties of asteroids from measurements of their heat emission in the thermal infrared (>5 μm). Here we show that E–ELT will be best suited for the physical characterization of some selected asteroids of particular interest, as for instance: (i) targets of sample return missions to near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs); (ii) km and sub-km binary asteroids for which size information will allow their bulk density to be derived; (iii) sizes and values of the thermal inertia of potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs). These two parameters both affect the Yarkovsky effect, which plays a role in the orbital evolution of km sized asteroids and represents a large source of uncertainty in the Earth impact probability prediction of some PHAs. Thermal inertia is also a sensitive indicator for the presence or absence of thermal insulating regolith on the surface of atmosphere-less bodies. Knowledge of this parameter is thus important for the design and the development of lander- and sample return-missions to asteroids. The E–ELT will also be able to spatially resolve asteroids and detect binaries in a range of sizes that are at present not accessible to present day adaptive optics.


Asteroids Thermal infrared Observations 



This work was partially carried out while Marco Delbó was a Henri Poincaré Fellow at the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur. The Henri Poincaré Fellowship is funded by the CNRS-INSU, the Conseil Général des Alpes-Maritimes and the Rotxary International – District 1730. The author wishes to thank the organizers of the workshop “Future Ground based Solar System Research: Synergies with Space Probes and Space Telescope” hold in the beautiful Elba island, Italy, in September 2008. In particular, the kind invitation from Gian Paolo Tozzi and Ulli Kaufl in acknowledge. Part of this paper was written in the library of the British Museum (London, UK). The comments and the suggestions of an anonymous referee are gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UNS, CNRSNice cedex 04France

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