• Composition of 298 Baptistina: Implications for the K/T impactor link

      Reddy, V.; Emery, J. P.; Gaffey, M. J.; Bottke, W. F.; Cramer, A.; Kelley, M. S. (The Meteoritical Society, 2009-01-01)
      Bottke et al. (2007) suggested that the breakup of the Baptistina asteroid family (BAF) 160+30 /-20 Myr ago produced an asteroid shower that increased by a factor of 2-3 the impact flux of kilometer-sized and larger asteroids striking the Earth over the last ~120 Myr. This result led them to propose that the impactor that produced the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) mass extinction event 65 Myr ago also may have come from the BAF. This putative link was based both on collisional/dynamical modeling work and on physical evidence. For the latter, the available broadband color and spectroscopic data on BAF members indicate many are likely to be dark, low albedo asteroids. This is consistent with the carbonaceous chondrite-like nature of a 65 Myr old fossil meteorite (Kyte 1998)and with chromium from K/T boundary sediments with an isotopic signature similar to that from CM2 carbonaceous chondrites. To test elements of this scenario, we obtained near-IR and thermal IR spectroscopic data of asteroid 298 Baptistina using the NASA IRTF in order to determine surface mineralogy and estimate its albedo. We found that the asteroid has moderately strong absorption features due to the presence of olivine and pyroxene, and a moderately high albedo (~20%). These combined properties strongly suggest that the asteroid is more like an S-type rather than Xc-type (Moth-Diniz et al. 2005). This weakens the case for 298 Baptistina being a CM2 carbonaceous chondrite and its link to the K/T impactor. We also observed several bright (V Mag. 16.8) BAF members to determine their composition.
    • The formation of the Baptistina family by catastrophic disruption: Porous versus non-porous parent body

      Jutzi, M.; Michel, P.; Benz, W.; Richardson, D. C. (The Meteoritical Society, 2009-01-01)
      In this paper, we present numerical simulations aimed at reproducing the Baptistina family based on its properties estimated by observations. A previous study by Bottke et al. (2007) indicated that this family is probably at the origin of the K/T impactor, is linked to the CM meteorites and was produced by the disruption of a parent body 170 km in size due to the head-on impact of a projectile 60 km in size at 3 km s^(-1). This estimate was based on simulations of fragmentation of non-porous materials, while the family was assumed to be of degrees C taxonomic type, which is generally interpreted as being formed from a porous body. Using both a model of fragmentation of non-porous materials, and a model that we developed recently for porous ones, we performed numerical simulations of disruptions aimed at reproducing this family and at analyzing the differences in the outcome between those two models. Our results show that a reasonable match to the estimated size distribution of the real family is produced from the disruption of a porous parent body by the head-on impact of a projectile 54 km in size at 3 km s^(-1). Thus, our simulations with a model consistent with the assumed dark type of the family requires a smaller projectile than previously estimated, but the difference remains small enough to not affect the proposed scenario of this family history. We then find that the break-up of a porous body leads to different outcomes than the disruption of a non-porous one. The real properties of the Baptistina family still contain large uncertainties, and it remains possible that its formation did not involve the proposed impact conditions. However, the simulations presented here already show some range of outcomes and once the real properties are better constrained, it will be easy to check whether one of them provides a good match.