Chasing the Chelyabinsk asteroid N-body style

C. de la Fuente Marcos, R. de la Fuente Marcos, S. J. Aarseth

Accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal (2015 August 24)

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On 2013 February 15 a small asteroid rammed against the atmosphere above the region of Chelyabinsk in Russia, producing the most powerful superbolide since the Tunguska event in 1908. Lacking proper astrometric observations, the pre-impact orbit of this object has been determined using videos, satellite images, and pure geometry. Unfortunately, more than two years after the event, the published estimates vary so much that there is no clear orbital solution that could be used to investigate the origin of the impactor and the existence of dynamically, or perhaps even genetically, related asteroids. Here, we revisit this topic using a full N-body approach. A robust statistical test is applied to published solutions to discard those unable to produce a virtual impact at the observed time (03:20:20.8 s UTC). The same N-body methodology and the latest ephemerides are used to compute a new orbital solution: a=1.6247 AU, e=0.5318, i=3.9750 degrees, Omega=326.4607 degrees, and omega=109.7012 degrees. This new solution –which has an impact probability > 0.99999 and uncertainties in time and space of 0.2 s and 6 km, respectively– is utilized to explore the past orbital evolution of the impactor as well as the presence of near-Earth objects moving in similar paths. A dynamical link between asteroid 2011 EO40 and the Chelyabinsk impactor is confirmed. Alternative orbital solutions are extensively explored.