Thermal infrared observations of asteroid (99942) Apophis with Herschel

T. G. Müller, C. Kiss, P. Scheirich, P. Pravec, L. O'Rourke, E. Vilenius, B. Altieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


The near-Earth asteroid (99942) Apophis is a potentially hazardous asteroid. We obtained far-infrared observations of this asteroid with the Herschel Space Observatory PACS instrument at 70, 100, and 160 μm. These were taken at two epochs in January and March 2013 during a close-Earth encounter. These first thermal measurements of Apophis were taken at similar phase angles before and after opposition. We performed a detailed thermophysical model analysis by using the spin and shape model recently derived from applying a two-period Fourier series method to a large sample of well-calibrated photometric observations. We found that the tumbling asteroid Apophis has an elongated shape with a mean diameter of 375+14-10m (of an equal volume sphere) and a geometric V-band albedo of 0.30+0.05 -0.06. We found a thermal inertia in the range 250-800 Jm -2 s-0.5 K-1 (best solution at Γ = 600 Jm-2 s-0.5 K-1), which can be explained by a mixture of low-conductivity fine regolith with larger rocks and boulders of high thermal inertia on the surface. The thermal inertia, and other similarities with (25143) Itokawa indicate that Apophis might also have a rubble-pile structure. If we combine the new size value with the assumption of an Itokawa-like density and porosity we estimate a mass between 4.4 and 6.2 × 1010 kg, which is more than 2-3 times larger than previous estimates. We expect that the newly derived properties will influence impact scenario studies and the long-term orbit predictions of Apophis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA22
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014



  • Infrared: planetary systems
  • Minor planets, asteroids: individual: (99942) Apophis
  • Radiation mechanisms: thermal
  • Techniques: photometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Müller, T. G., Kiss, C., Scheirich, P., Pravec, P., O'Rourke, L., Vilenius, E., & Altieri, B. (2014). Thermal infrared observations of asteroid (99942) Apophis with Herschel. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 566, [A22].