Determining asteroid spin states using radar speckles

Michael W. Busch, Shrinivas R. Kulkarni, Walter Brisken, Steven J. Ostro, Lance A M Benner, Jon D. Giorgini, Michael C. Nolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Knowing the shapes and spin states of near-Earth asteroids is essential to understanding their dynamical evolution because of the Yarkovsky and YORP effects. Delay-Doppler radar imaging is the most powerful ground-based technique for imaging near-Earth asteroids and can obtain spatial resolution of <10. m, but frequently produces ambiguous pole direction solutions. A radar echo from an asteroid consists of a pattern of speckles caused by the interference of reflections from different parts of the surface. It is possible to determine an asteroid's pole direction by tracking the motion of the radar speckle pattern. Speckle tracking can potentially measure the poles of at least several radar targets each year, rapidly increasing the available sample of NEA pole directions. We observed the near-Earth asteroid 2008 EV5 with the Arecibo planetary radar and the Very Long Baseline Array in December 2008. By tracking the speckles moving from the Pie Town to Los Alamos VLBA stations, we have shown that EV5 rotates retrograde. This is the first speckle detection of a near-Earth asteroid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-541
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Asteroids
  • Asteroids, Dynamics
  • Asteroids, Rotation
  • Radar observations


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