Physical investigation of the potentially hazardous Asteroid (144898) 2004 VD17
ABSTRACT In this paper we present the observational campaign carried out at ESO NTT and VLT in April and May 2006 to investigate the nature and the structure of the near-Earth object (144898) 2004 VD17. In spite of a great quantity of dynamical information, according to which it will have a close approach with the Earth in the next century, the physical properties of this asteroid are largely unknown. We performed visible and near-infrared photometry and spectroscopy, as well as polarimetric observations. Polarimetric and spectroscopic data allowed us to classify 2004 VD17 as an E-type asteroid. A good agreement was also found with the spectrum of the aubrite meteorite Mayo Belwa. On the basis of the polarimetric albedo (pv=0.45) and of photometric data, we estimated a diameter of about 320 m and a rotational period of about 2 h. The analysis of the results obtained by our complete survey have shown that (144898) 2004 VD17 is a peculiar NEO, since it is close to the breakup limits for fast rotator asteroids, as defined by Pravec and Harris [Pravec, P., Harris, A.W., 2000. Icarus 148, 12–20]. These results suggest that a more robust structure must be expected, as a fractured monolith or a rubble pile in a “strength regime” [Holsapple, K.A., 2002. Speed limits of rubble pile asteroids: Even fast rotators can be rubble piles. In: Workshop on Scientific Requirements for Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids, Washington, September, 2002].