• 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.