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Constraints on the near-Earth asteroid obliquity distribution from the Yarkovsky effect

Tardioli, C. and Farnocchia, D. and Rozitis, B. and Cotto-Figueroa, D. and Chesley, S. R. and Statler, T. S. and Vasile, M. (2017) Constraints on the near-Earth asteroid obliquity distribution from the Yarkovsky effect. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 608. ISSN 0004-6361

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Abstract

Aims. From lightcurve and radar data we know the spin axis of only 43 near-Earth asteroids. In this paper we attempt to constrain the spin axis obliquity distribution of near-Earth asteroids by leveraging the Yarkovsky effect and its dependence on an asteroid’s obliquity. Methods. By modeling the physical parameters driving the Yarkovsky effect, we solve an inverse problem where we test different simple parametric obliquity distributions. Each distribution results in a predicted Yarkovsky effect distribution that we compare with a chi^2 test to a dataset of 125 Yarkovsky estimates. Results. We find different obliquity distributions that are statistically satisfactory. In particular, among the considered models, the best-fit solution is a quadratic function, which only depends on two parameters, favors extreme obliquities, consistent with the expected outcomes from the YORP effect, has a 2:1 ratio between retrograde and direct rotators, which is in agreement with theoretical predictions, and is statistically consistent with the distribution of known spin axes of near-Earth asteroids.