Photometric Observations of the Binary Near-Earth Asteroid (65803) Didymos in 2015-2021 Prior to DART Impact

Pravec, P.; Thomas, C. A.; Rivkin, A. S.; Scheirich, P.; Moskovitz, N.; Knight, M. M.; Snodgrass, C.; de León, J.; Licandro, J.; Popescu, M.; Thirouin, A.; Föhring, D.; Chandler, C. O.; Oldroyd, W. J.; Trujillo, C. A.; Howell, E. S.; Green, S. F.; Thomas-Osip, J.; Sheppard, S. S.; Farnham, T. L.; Mazzotta Epifani, E.; Dotto, E.; Ieva, S.; Dall'Ora, M.; Kokotanekova, R.; Carry, B.; Souami, D.
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The Planetary Science Journal

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We performed photometric observations of the binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) Didymos in support of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission that will test the Kinetic Impactor technology for diverting dangerous asteroids. It will hit the Didymos secondary, called Dimorphos, on 2022 September 26. We observed Didymos with 11 telescopes with diameters from 3.5 to 10.4 m during four apparitions in 2015-2021, obtaining data with rms residuals from 0.006 to 0.030 mag. We analyzed the light-curve data and decomposed them into the primary rotational and secondary orbital light curves. We detected 37 mutual eclipse/occultation events between the binary system components. The data presented here, in combination with 18 mutual events detected in 2003, provide the basis for modeling the Dimorphos orbit around the Didymos primary. The orbit modeling is discussed in detail by Scheirich & Pravec and Naidu et al. The primary light curves were complex, showing multiple extrema on some epochs. They suggest a presence of complex topography on the primary's surface that is apparent in specific viewing/illumination geometries; the primary shape model by Naidu et al. (Icarus 348, 113777, 2020) needs to be refined. The secondary rotational light-curve data were limited and did not provide a clear solution for the rotation period and equatorial elongation of Dimorphos. We define the requirements for observations of the secondary light curve to provide the needed information on Dimorphos's rotation and elongation when Didymos is bright in 2022 July-September before the DART impact.
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