Asteroid Family Identification Using the Hierarchical Clustering Method and WISE/NEOWISE Physical Properties

June 2013 • 2013ApJ...770....7M

Authors • Masiero, Joseph R. • Mainzer, A. K. • Bauer, J. M. • Grav, T. • Nugent, C. R. • Stevenson, R.

Abstract • Using albedos from WISE/NEOWISE to separate distinct albedo groups within the Main Belt asteroids, we apply the Hierarchical Clustering Method to these subpopulations and identify dynamically associated clusters of asteroids. While this survey is limited to the ~35% of known Main Belt asteroids that were detected by NEOWISE, we present the families linked from these objects as higher confidence associations than can be obtained from dynamical linking alone. We find that over one-third of the observed population of the Main Belt is represented in the high-confidence cores of dynamical families. The albedo distribution of family members differs significantly from the albedo distribution of background objects in the same region of the Main Belt; however, interpretation of this effect is complicated by the incomplete identification of lower-confidence family members. In total we link 38,298 asteroids into 76 distinct families. This work represents a critical step necessary to debias the albedo and size distributions of asteroids in the Main Belt and understand the formation and history of small bodies in our solar system.


IPAC Authors


Joe Masiero

Associate Scientist