3552 Don Quixote

3552 Don Quixote, provisionally designated 1983 SA, is an exceptionally eccentric asteroid, classified as a near-Earth object of the Amor group, Mars-crosser and Jupiter-crosser, as well as centaur and extinct comet.

3552 Don Quixote
Don Quixote (apmag 15) near perihelion
taken in Pingelly, Australia, 2009
Discovery [1]
Discovered byP. Wild
Discovery siteZimmerwald Obs.
Discovery date26 September 1983
MPC designation(3552) Don Quixote
Named after
Don Quixote fictional character[2]
1983 SA
NEO · Amor[1]
Orbital characteristics[1]
Epoch 4 September 2017 (JD 2458000.5)
Uncertainty parameter 0
Observation arc33.71 yr (12,312 days)
Aphelion7.2783 AU
Perihelion1.2399 AU
4.2591 AU
8.79 yr (3,211 days)
0° 6m 43.56s / day
Earth MOID0.3338 AU
Jupiter MOID0.4397 AU
Physical characteristics
Dimensions18.4±0.4 km[4]
7.7 h (0.32 d)[3][5]
D (Tholen) · D (SMASS)
11.67 (1957) to 22.32[a]

Discovery and naming

The asteroid was discovered on 26 September 1983, by Swiss astronomer Paul Wild at Zimmerwald Observatory near Bern, Switzerland.[6] It was named after the comic knight who is the eponymous hero of Cervantes' Spanish novel Don Quixote (1605).[2] The approved naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 2 December 1990 (M.P.C. 17466).[7]

Orbit and characteristics

Don Quixote is characterized as a dark D-type asteroid in the Tholen and SMASS taxonomy.[1]

It has a highly inclined comet-like orbit of 31 degrees that leads to frequent perturbations by Jupiter.[8] Don Quixote measures 18.4 kilometres in diameter and has a rotation period of 7.7 hours.[1][4]

Due to its comet-like orbit and albedo, Don Quixote has been suspected to be an extinct comet.[9] However, infrared observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope at 4.5 μm revealed a faint coma and tail around the object.[4] The cometary activity is inferred by carbon dioxide (CO
) molecular band emission. In March 2018 a tail was observed at visible wavelengths for the first time.[10] It is still unknown whether the observed activity is persistent or an outburst, resulting from the excavation of sub-surface CO
ice due to a recent impact of a smaller body.


  1. ^ Magnitudes generated with JPL Horizons for the year 1950 through 2100


  1. ^ a b c d e f "JPL Small-Body Database Browser: 3552 Don Quixote (1983 SA)" (2017-05-26 last obs.). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). "(3552) Don Quixote". Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (3552) Don Quixote. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 298. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_3551. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3.
  3. ^ a b "LCDB Data for (3552) Don Quixote". Asteroid Lightcurve Database (LCDB). Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Mommert, Michael; Hora, Joseph L.; Harris, Alan W.; Reach, William T.; Emery, Joshua P.; Thomas, Cristina A.; et al. (January 2014). "The Discovery of Cometary Activity in Near-Earth Asteroid (3552) Don Quixote". The Astrophysical Journal. 781 (1): 10. arXiv:1312.0673. Bibcode:2014ApJ...781...25M. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/781/1/25. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  5. ^ "European Asteroid Research Node:(3552) Don Quixote". Archived from the original on 2012-09-02. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  6. ^ "3552 Don Quixote (1983 SA)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  7. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  8. ^ "JPL Close-Approach Data: 3552 Don Quixote (1983 SA)" (2 May 2009 last obs). Retrieved 6 May 2009.
  9. ^ Lupishko, D. F.; di Martino, M.; Lupishko, T. A. (September 2000). "What the physical properties of near-Earth asteroids tell us about sources of their origin?". Kinematika I Fizika Nebesnykh Tel Supplimen. 3 (3): 213–216. Bibcode:2000KFNTS...3..213L. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  10. ^ Mommert, Michael (March 2018). "CBET 4502: 20180329 : (3552) DON QUIXOTE". Central Bureau of Electronic Telegrams (Harvard) – via Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams (Harvard).

External links

1866 Sisyphus

1866 Sisyphus ( SIS-i-fəs), provisional designation 1972 XA, is a binary stony asteroid, near-Earth object and the largest member of the Apollo group, approximately 7 kilometers in diameter.

It was discovered on 5 December 1972, by Swiss astronomer Paul Wild at Zimmerwald Observatory near Bern, Switzerland, and named after Sisyphus from Greek mythology.

3551 Verenia

3551 Verenia, provisional designation 1983 RD, is an Amor asteroid and a Mars crosser discovered September 12, 1983, by R. Scott Dunbar. Although Verenia passed within 40 Gm of the Earth in the 20th century, it will never do so in the 21st. In 2028 it will come within 0.025 AU of Ceres.3551 Verenia was named for the first vestal virgin consecrated by the legendary Roman king Numa Pompilius.

3553 Mera

3553 Mera, provisional designation 1985 JA, is an Amor asteroid discovered on May 14, 1985, by C. Shoemaker at Palomar. It was named for Maera, a daughter of Praetus.

4954 Eric

4954 Eric, provisional designation 1990 SQ is an eccentric, stony asteroid, classified as near-Earth object of the Amor group, approximately 11 kilometers in diameter. It was discovered by American astronomer Brian Roman at Palomar Observatory on 23 September 1990. The asteroid was named after its discoverer's son, Eric Roman.

It is the largest near-Earth asteroid discovered since 3552 Don Quixote in 1983. On 2007 October 11 the asteroid passed 0.2865 AU (42,860,000 km; 26,630,000 mi) from Earth. It currently makes closer approaches to Mars than it does Earth. The asteroid has a rotation period of 12.05 hours.Other large near-Earth asteroids include: 1036 Ganymed (32 km), 3552 Don Quixote (19 km), 433 Eros (17 km), and 1866 Sisyphus (8.5 km).

6144 Kondojiro

6144 Kondojiro (1994 EQ3) is an asteroid discovered on March 14, 1994 by Kin Endate and Kazuro Watanabe at the Kitami Observatory in eastern Hokkaidō, Japan. It is named after Jiro Kondo, a Japanese Egyptologist and professor of archaeology at Waseda University.

Amor asteroid

The Amor asteroids are a group of near-Earth asteroids named after the archetype object 1221 Amor. The orbital perihelion of these objects is close to, but greater than, the orbital aphelion of Earth (i.e., the objects do not cross Earth's orbit), with most Amors crossing the orbit of Mars. The Amor asteroid 433 Eros was the first asteroid to be orbited and landed upon by a robotic space probe (NEAR Shoemaker).


A comet is an icy, small Solar System body that, when passing close to the Sun, warms and begins to release gases, a process called outgassing. This produces a visible atmosphere or coma, and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind acting upon the nucleus of the comet. Comet nuclei range from a few hundred metres to tens of kilometres across and are composed of loose collections of ice, dust, and small rocky particles. The coma may be up to 15 times the Earth's diameter, while the tail may stretch one astronomical unit. If sufficiently bright, a comet may be seen from the Earth without the aid of a telescope and may subtend an arc of 30° (60 Moons) across the sky. Comets have been observed and recorded since ancient times by many cultures.

Comets usually have highly eccentric elliptical orbits, and they have a wide range of orbital periods, ranging from several years to potentially several millions of years. Short-period comets originate in the Kuiper belt or its associated scattered disc, which lie beyond the orbit of Neptune. Long-period comets are thought to originate in the Oort cloud, a spherical cloud of icy bodies extending from outside the Kuiper belt to halfway to the nearest star. Long-period comets are set in motion towards the Sun from the Oort cloud by gravitational perturbations caused by passing stars and the galactic tide. Hyperbolic comets may pass once through the inner Solar System before being flung to interstellar space. The appearance of a comet is called an apparition.

Comets are distinguished from asteroids by the presence of an extended, gravitationally unbound atmosphere surrounding their central nucleus. This atmosphere has parts termed the coma (the central part immediately surrounding the nucleus) and the tail (a typically linear section consisting of dust or gas blown out from the coma by the Sun's light pressure or outstreaming solar wind plasma). However, extinct comets that have passed close to the Sun many times have lost nearly all of their volatile ices and dust and may come to resemble small asteroids. Asteroids are thought to have a different origin from comets, having formed inside the orbit of Jupiter rather than in the outer Solar System. The discovery of main-belt comets and active centaur minor planets has blurred the distinction between asteroids and comets. In the early 21st century, the discovery of some minor bodies with long-period comet orbits, but characteristics of inner solar system asteroids, were called Manx comets. They are still classified as comets, such as C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS). 27 Manx comets were found from 2013 to 2017.As of July 2018 there are 6,339 known comets, a number that is steadily increasing as they are discovered. However, this represents only a tiny fraction of the total potential comet population, as the reservoir of comet-like bodies in the outer Solar System (in the Oort cloud) is estimated to be one trillion. Roughly one comet per year is visible to the naked eye, though many of those are faint and unspectacular. Particularly bright examples are called "great comets". Comets have been visited by unmanned probes such as the European Space Agency's Rosetta, which became the first ever to land a robotic spacecraft on a comet, and NASA's Deep Impact, which blasted a crater on Comet Tempel 1 to study its interior.

Comet nucleus

The nucleus is the solid, central part of a comet, popularly termed a dirty snowball or an icy dirtball. A cometary nucleus is composed of rock, dust, and frozen gases. When heated by the Sun, the gases sublimate and produce an atmosphere surrounding the nucleus known as the coma. The force exerted on the coma by the Sun's radiation pressure and solar wind cause an enormous tail to form, which points away from the Sun. A typical comet nucleus has an albedo of 0.04. This is blacker than coal, and may be caused by a covering of dust.Results from the Rosetta and Philae spacecraft show that the nucleus of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has no magnetic field, which suggests that magnetism may not have played a role in the early formation of planetesimals. Further, the ALICE spectrograph on Rosetta determined that electrons (within 1 km (0.62 mi) above the comet nucleus) produced from photoionization of water molecules by solar radiation, and not photons from the Sun as thought earlier, are responsible for the degradation of water and carbon dioxide molecules released from the comet nucleus into its coma. On 30 July 2015, scientists reported that the Philae spacecraft, that landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014, detected at least 16 organic compounds, of which four (including acetamide, acetone, methyl isocyanate and propionaldehyde) were detected for the first time on a comet.

D-type asteroid

D-type asteroids have a very low albedo and a featureless reddish spectrum. It has been suggested that they have a composition of organic-rich silicates, carbon and anhydrous silicates, possibly with water ice in their interiors. D-type asteroids are found in the outer asteroid belt and beyond; examples are 152 Atala, and 944 Hidalgo as well as the majority of Jupiter trojans. It has been suggested that the Tagish Lake meteorite was a fragment from a D-type asteroid, and that the Martian moon Phobos is closely related.The Nice model suggests that D-type asteroids may have originated in the Kuiper belt. 46 D-type asteroids are known, including 3552 Don Quixote, 944 Hidalgo, 624 Hektor, and 10199 Chariklo.

Extinct comet

An extinct comet is a comet that has expelled most of its volatile ice and has little left to form a tail and coma. In a dormant comet, rather than being depleted, any remaining volatile components have been sealed beneath an inactive surface layer.

Due to the near lack of a coma and tail, an extinct or dormant comet may resemble an asteroid rather than a comet and blur the distinction between these two classes of small Solar System bodies. When volatile materials such as nitrogen, water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen and methane in the comet nucleus have evaporated away, all that remains is an inert rock or rubble pile. A comet may go through a transition phase as it comes close to extinction.

List of Amor asteroid records

The following is a list of current records for Amor asteroids.

List of Jupiter-crossing minor planets

A Jupiter-crosser is a minor planet whose orbit crosses that of Jupiter. Jupiter trojans can be inner grazers (105), outer grazers (52), co-orbitals (183), and crossers (537). Discounting them, there is one numbered, 7 non-numbered, and 19 cometary outer-grazers. For the Jupiter trojans, see List of Jupiter trojans (Greek camp) and List of Jupiter trojans (Trojan camp).

List of Mars-crossing minor planets

A Mars-crossing asteroid (MCA, also Mars-crosser, MC) is an asteroid whose orbit crosses that of Mars. The known numbered Mars-crossers are listed here. They include the two numbered Mars trojans 5261 Eureka and (101429) 1998 VF31.

Many databases, for instance the JPL Small-Body Database (JPL SBDB), only list asteroids with a perihelion greater than 1.3 AU as Mars-crossers. An asteroid with a perihelion less than this is classed as a near-Earth object even though it is crossing the orbit of Mars as well as crossing (or coming near to) that of Earth. Nevertheless, these objects are listed on this page. A grazer is an object with a perihelion below the aphelion of Mars (1.67 AU) but above the Martian perihelion (1.38 AU). The JPL SBDB lists 13,500 Mars-crossing asteroids. Only 18 MCAs are brighter than absolute magnitude (H) 12.5, which typically makes these asteroids with H<12.5 more than 13 km in diameter depending on the albedo. The smallest known MCAs have an absolute magnitude (H) of around 24 and are typically less than 100 meters in diameter.

Paul Wild (Swiss astronomer)

Paul Wild (German: [ˈvɪlt]; 5 October 1925 – 2 July 2014) was a Swiss astronomer and director of the Astronomical Institute of the University of Bern, who discovered numerous comets, asteroids and supernovae.

Minor planets

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