Shining light on thermophysical Near-Earth Asteroid modeling efforts
January 22, 2019
Comprehensive thermophysical analyses of Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) provide important information about their physical properties, including visible albedo, diameter, composition, and thermal inertia. These details are integral to defining asteroid taxonomy and understanding how these objects interact with the solar system. Since infrared (IR) asteroid observations are not widely available, thermophysical modeling techniques have become valuable in simulating properties of different asteroid types. Several basic models that assume a spherical asteroid shape have been used extensively within the research community. As part of a program focused on developing a simulation of space-based IR sensors for asteroid search, the Near-Earth Asteroid Model (NEATM) developed by Harris, A. in 1998, was selected. This review provides a full derivation of the formulae behind NEATM, including the spectral flux density equation, consideration of the solar phase angle, and the geometry of the asteroid, Earth, and Sun system. It describes how to implement the model in software and explores the use of an ellipsoidal asteroid shape. It also applies the model to several asteroids observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) and compares the performance of the model to the observations.