Author(s): Apostolos Christou2, Galin Borisov2, Seth A Jacobson1, Francois Colas3, Aldo dell’Oro4, Alberto Cellino5, Stefano Bagnulo2
Institution(s): 1. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University, 2. Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, 3. IMCCE, Observatoire de Paris, 4. Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, 5. Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino
Mars is the only terrestrial planet supporting a stable population of Trojan asteroids. One, (5261) Eureka, has a family of smaller asteroids of similar composition (Borisov et al, 2017; Polishook et al, 2017) that likely separated from Eureka within the last 1 Gyr (Ćuk et al, 2015). Two other Trojans, (101429) 1998 VF31 and (121514) 1999 UJ7, of similar size and on similar orbits to Eureka, are not associated with families of asteroids, begging the question of what makes Eureka special.
The Yarkovsky-O'Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect may have formed the Eureka family (Christou, 2013; Ćuk et al, 2015) by the spinning off of ``YORPlets’’, a mechanism also responsible for close orbital pairs of small Main Belt asteroids (Pravec et al, 2010). Eureka’s fast rotation rate (P=2.69 hr; Koehn et al, 2014), right at the so-called ``spin barrier’’ (Warner et al, 2009), apparently supports this.
We obtained photometry of 101429 and 121514 to find out their rotation periods. We find an unusually long, ∼50 hr period for 121514; the asteroid may be in a ``tumbling’’ rotational state that inhibits YOPRlet production. On the other hand, the faster (P=7.7 hr) rotation we obtain for 101429 does not preclude it from having been spun up to the rotational fission limit during the most recent 10s of Myr.
Instead, 101429’s location near a secular resonance (Scholl et al, 2005) may lead to rapid loss of any YORPlet asteroids. Indeed, test particles started at 101429’s orbit and evolving under the Yarkovsky effect escape within a few hundred Myr, several times faster than particles started near Eureka. We conclude that the stability enjoyed by asteroids in Eureka’s orbital vicinity, combined with the ability to readily populate that vicinity with new asteroids, are likely responsible for Eureka’s status as the only Martian Trojan with a family.