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Astron. Astrophys. 352, 697-702 (1999)

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4979 Otawara: flyby target of the Rosetta mission *

A. Doressoundiram 1,2, P. R. Weissman 1, M. Fulchignoni 2,3, M.A. Barucci 2, A. Le Bras 2, F. Colas 4, J. Lecacheux 2, M. Birlan 2, M. Lazzarin 5, S. Fornasier 5, E. Dotto 2,8, C. Barbieri 5, M.V. Sykes 6, S. Larson 7 and C. Hergenrother 7

1 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
2 Observatoire de Paris, DESPA, 5, Place Jules Janssens, 92190 Meudon, France
3 Université de Paris VII, Paris, France
4 IMCCE, 77 avenue Denfert-Rochereau, 75014 Paris, France
5 Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, vicolo dell'Osservatorio, 5, 35122 Padova, Italy
6 Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
7 Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
8 Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino, 10025 Pino Torinese, Italy

Received 20 September 1999 / Accepted 2 November 1999


An international observing campaign was organized to determine the physical and chemical characteristics of asteroid 4979 Otawara, which is the first target of the Rosetta mission (flyby on July 10, 2006). Knowledge of the physical parameters of the flyby targets is required for both refinement of the design of the spacecraft and the instrument payload, and optimization of the mission trajectory and scenarios. We present the results of observations obtained from December, 1998 through March, 1999. The spectral classification of 4979 Otawara could be either a pyroxene and/or olivine-rich S-type asteroid or a V-type asteroid, a member of the Vesta dynamical family. Further observations are needed in order to discriminate between the two spectral types. The synodic rotation period of Otawara is [FORMULA] hr. The lower limit for the axial ratio of the enveloping ellipsoid is [FORMULA]. The circular effective radius is 2.0 or 1.3 km in the case of an S-type or a V-type asteroid, respectively. A lower limit on its density is obtained: [FORMULA] g cm-3 if we assume that Otawara is an aggregate or rubble pile object. However, if Otawara is a single solid body, no constraint can be set on its density. 4979 Otawara is a small, fast rotating asteroid (FRA) and hence, will be a particularly interesting target to be studied from a spacecraft, since no fast rotator has been visited yet.

Key words: minor planets, asteroids – planets and satellites: individual: 4979 Otawa

* partly based on observations carried out at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) of La Silla, Chile, and at Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ USA.

Send offprint requests to: A. Doressoundiram (alain.doressoundiram@obspm.fr)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1999

Online publication: December 2, 1999