A radar survey of M- and X-class asteroids. III. Insights into their composition, hydration state, & structure

Document Type


Publication Date



Using the S-band radar at Arecibo Observatory, we observed thirteen X/M-class asteroids; nine were previously undetected and four were re-observed, bringing the total number of Tholen X/M-class asteroids observed with radar to 29. Of these 29M-class asteroids, 13 are also W-class, defined as M-class objects that also display a 3-μm absorption feature which is often interpreted as the signature of hydrated minerals (Jones, T.D., Lebofsky, L.A., Lewis, J.S., Marley, M.S. [1990]. Icarus 88, 172-192; Rivkin, A.S., Howell, E.S., Britt, D.T., Lebofsky, L.A., Nolan, M.C., Branston, D.D. [1995]. Icarus 117, 90-100; Rivkin, A.S., Howell, E.S., Lebofsky, L.A., Clark, B.E., Britt, D.T. [2000]. Icarus 145, 351-368).Consistent with our previous work (Shepard, M.K. et al. [2008]. Icarus 195, 184-205; Shepard, M.K., Harris, A.W., Taylor, P.A., Clark, B.E., Ockert-Bell, M., Nolan, M.C., Howell, E.S., Magri, C., Giorgini, J.D., Benner, L.A.M. [2011]. Icarus 215, 547-551), we find that 38% of our sample (11 of 29) have radar albedos consistent with metal-dominated compositions. With the exception of 83 Beatrix and 572 Rebekka, the remaining objects have radar albedos significantly higher than the mean S- or C-class asteroid (Magri, C., Nolan, M.C., Ostro, S.J., Giorgini, J.D. [2007]. Icarus 186, 126-151).Seven of the eleven high-radar-albedo asteroids, or 64%, also display a 3-μm absorption feature (W-class) which is thought to be inconsistent with the formation of a metal dominated asteroid. We suggest that the hydration absorption could be a secondary feature caused by low-velocity collisions with hydrated asteroids, such as CI or CM analogs, and subsequent implantation of the hydrated minerals into the upper regolith. There is recent evidence for this process on Vesta (Reddy, V. et al. [2012]. Icarus 221, 544-559; McCord, T.B. et al. [2012]. Nature 491, 83-86; Prettyman, T.H. et al. [2012]. Science 338, 242-246; Denevi, B.W. et al. [2012]. Science 338, 246-249).Eleven members of our sample show bifurcated radar echoes at some rotation phases; eight of these are high radar albedo targets. One interpretation of a bifurcated echo is a contact binary, like 216 Kleopatra, and several of our sample are contact binary candidates. However, evidence for other targets indicates they are not contact binaries. Instead, we hypothesize that these asteroids may have large-scale variations in surface bulk density, i.e. isolated patches of metal-rich and silicate-rich regions at the near-surface, possibly the result of collisions between metal and silicate-rich asteroids.

Publication Name


Volume Number


First Page


Last Page




This document is currently not available here.