Asteroid Photometric Phase Functions From Bayesian Lightcurve Inversion

Publication date: 
Main author: 
Muinonen K.
IAA authors: 
Martikainen, Julia
Muinonen, Karri;Uvarova, Elizaveta;Martikainen, Julia;Penttilä, Antti;Cellino, Alberto;Wang, Xiaobin
Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences
Publication type: 
Photometry is an important tool for characterizing the physical properties of asteroids. An asteroid’s photometric lightcurve and phase curve refer to the variation of the asteroid’s disk-integrated brightness in time and in phase angle (the Sun-asteroid-observer angle), respectively. They depend on the asteroid’s shape, rotation, and surface scattering properties, and the geometry of illumination and observation. We present Bayesian lightcurve inversion methods for the retrieval of the asteroid’s phase function, the unambiguous phase curve of a spherical object with surface scattering properties equal to those of the asteroid. A collection of such phase functions can give rise to a photometric taxonomy for asteroids. In the inverse problem, first, there are four classes of lightcurves that require individual error models. The photometric observations can be absolute or relative and they can have dense or sparse cadence in comparison to the rotation period of the asteroid. Second, the observations extend over varying phase angle ranges, requiring different phase function models. Asteroid photometry from the European Space Agency Gaia space mission extends, typically, over a range of phase angles, where the phase curve tends to be linear on the magnitude scale. Photometry from ground-based observing programs can reach small phase angles, where the asteroids show an opposition effect, a nonlinear increase of brightness on the magnitude scale towards zero phase angle. We provide error models for all four classes of lightcurves and make use of linear or linear-exponential phase functions for phase angles below 50°. We apply the inverse methods to sparse absolute Gaia and dense relative ground-based lightcurves and obtain absolute magnitudes and phase functions, with uncertainties, for ∼500 asteroids. Finally, we assess the lightcurve inversion problem for dense absolute photometry with the help of a numerical simulation for a Gaussian-random-sphere asteroid.
absolute magnitude | asteroid | asteroid taxonomy | convex inversion | Gaia mission | lightcurve | phase curve | phase function