Near-earth asteroid (66391) Moshup (1999 KW4) observing campaign: Results from a global planetary defense characterization exercise

Vishnu Reddy, Michael S. Kelley, Jessie Dotson, Rob R. Landis, Lauren E. McGraw, Marco Micheli, Nicholas A. Moskovitz, Juan A. Sanchez, Patrick A. Taylor, Lorien Wheeler, James M. Bauer, Melissa J. Brucker, Maxime Devogèle, Joshua P. Emery, Olivier Hainaut, Dylan C. Hickson, Detlef Koschny, Jeffrey A. Larsen, Sean E. Marshall, Robert McMillanBrian A. Skiff, Flaviane C.F. Venditti, Anne K. Virkki, Bin Yang, Luisa F. Zambrano-Marin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Hazards due to near-Earth objects (NEOs) continue to pose a threat to life on Earth. While our capability for discovering NEOs has steadily progressed over the last three decades, physical characterization of a representative population has lagged behind. To test the operational readiness of the global planetary defense capabilities, we conducted a community-led global planetary defense exercise, with support from the NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) and the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN), to test the operational readiness of global planetary defense capabilities. This campaign focused on the characterization (direct imaging, radar, spectroscopy) of the binary near-Earth asteroid (NEA) (66391) Moshup (formerly known as 1999 KW4) and its moon Squannit. We chose a binary system because roughly one in six large NEAs are binaries. An additional goal was to apply lessons learned from this campaign towards ground-based characterization campaign for binary NEA (65803) Didymos, the target of the PDCO's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) and the European Space Agency's Hera missions. Spectral observations of Moshup from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) show similarities to Q-type asteroids. Based on its spectral band parameters, the best meteorite analogs for Moshup are L chondrites. We did not detect a hydration feature at 3 μm, which suggests that the entire surface is anhydrous. We imaged the binary using the SPHERE instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and obtained resolved spectral measurements of Moshup similar to those obtained with the NASA IRTF. Squannit appears to have slightly redder spectral slope than Moshup. Radar observations Arecibo Observatory at 2380 MHz indicate a polarization ratio of ~0.4, which is higher than the average values for the S complex asteroids, which includes Q types. The visible extent of the components from the radar observations, taken as proxies for their radii, suggest Moshup and Squannit have diameters of 1500 ± 120 m and 480 ± 60 m, respectively. We constrain the system mass to 2.2 ± 0.5 × 1012 kg with a maximum range for bulk density between ~0.8 g/cm3 for a very low-mass system with spherical shapes up to 2.7 g/cm3 for very high-mass system where Moshup has a more ridged-ball shape. We note that the radar-derived parameters presented in the paper are for the purposes of this exercise and do not supersede those in Ostro et al. (2006). We assessed the impact risk of a hypothetical impactor based on Moshup's physical properties using the Probabilistic Asteroid Impact Risk (PAIR) model. We assessed three impact risk scenarios at different epochs as the state of knowledge of Moshup improved. For kilometer-scale impactors like Moshup, the risk is driven predominantly by the potential for global climatic effects (95–97% of cases across the epochs) with a few percent driven by local damage and a few tenths of a percent driven by tsunami.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114790
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Asteroids
  • Characterization
  • Meteorites
  • Radar
  • Spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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