The Population of Tiny Near-Earth Objects Observed by NEOWISE

Only a very small fraction of the asteroid population at size scales comparable to the object that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia has been discovered to date, and physical properties are poorly characterized. We present previously unreported detections of 106 close approaching near-Earth objects (NEOs) by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission’s NEOWISE project. These infrared observations constrain physical properties such as diameter and albedo for these objects, many of which are found to be smaller than 100 m. Because these objects are intrinsically faint, they were detected by WISE during very close approaches to the Earth, often at large apparent on-sky velocities. We observe a trend of increasing albedo with decreasing size, but as this sample of NEOs was discovered by visible light surveys, it is likely that selection biases against finding small, dark NEOs influence this finding.

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Date added: Mon, 14 Oct 13