Evidence for differentiation of the most primitive small bodiesOPEN ACCESS 

B. Carry, P. Vernazza, F. Vachier, M. Neveu, J. Berthier J. Hanus, M. Ferrais, L. Jorda, M. Marsset, M. Viikinkoski, P. Bartczak, R. Behrend, Z. Benkhaldoun, M. Birlan, J. Castillo-Rogez, F. Cipriani, F. Colas, A. Drouard, G. P. Dudzinski, J. Desmars, C. Dumas, J. Durech, R. Fetick, T. Fusco, J. Grice, E. Jehin, M. Kaasalainen, A. Kryszczynska, P. Lamy, F. Marchis, A. Marciniak, T. Michalowski, P. Michel, M. Pajuelo, E. Podlewska-Gaca, N. Rambaux, T. Santana-Ros, A. Storrs, P. Tanga, A. Vigan, B. Warner, M. Wieczorek, O. Witasse, B. Yang

Accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics


“Dynamical models of Solar System evolution have suggested that P-/D-type volatile-rich asteroids formed in the outer Solar System and may be genetically related to the Jupiter Trojans, the comets and small KBOs. Indeed, their spectral properties resemble that of anhydrous cometary dust. High-angular-resolution images of P-type asteroid (87) Sylvia with VLT/SPHERE were used to reconstruct its 3D shape, and to study the dynamics of its two satellites. We also model Sylvia’s thermal evolution. The shape of Sylvia appears flattened and elongated. We derive a volume-equivalent diameter of 271 +/- 5 km, and a low density of 1378 +/- 45 kg.m-3. The two satellites orbit Sylvia on circular, equatorial orbits. The oblateness of Sylvia should imply a detectable nodal precession which contrasts with the fully-Keplerian dynamics of the satellites. This reveals an inhomogeneous internal structure, suggesting that Sylvia is differentiated. Sylvia’s low density and differentiated interior can be explained by partial melting and mass redistribution through water percolation. The outer shell would be composed of material similar to interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) and the core similar to aqueously altered IDPs or carbonaceous chondrite meteorites such as the Tagish Lake meteorite. Numerical simulations of the thermal evolution of Sylvia show that for a body of such size, partial melting was unavoidable due to the decay of long-lived radionuclides. In addition, we show that bodies as small as 130-150 km in diameter should have followed a similar thermal evolution, while smaller objects, such as comets and the KBO Arrokoth, must have remained pristine, in agreement with in situ observations of these bodies. NASA Lucy mission target (617) Patroclus (diameter~140 km) may, however, be differentiated. “