Extremely strong polarization of an active asteroid (3200) Phaethon
Takashi Ito, Masateru Ishiguro, Tomoko Arai, Masataka Imai, Tomohiko Sekiguchi, Yoonsoo P. Bach, Yuna G. Kwon, Masanori Kobayashi, Ryo Ishimaru, Hiroyuki Naito, Makoto Watanabe & Kiyoshi Kuramoto
The near-Earth asteroid (3200) Phaethon is the parent body of the Geminid meteor stream. Phaethon is also an active asteroid with a very blue spectrum. We conducted polarimetric observations of this asteroid over a wide range of solar phase angles α during its close approach to the Earth in autumn 2016. Our observation revealed that Phaethon exhibits extremely large linear polarization: P = 50.0 ± 1.1% at α = 106.5°, and its maximum is even larger. The strong polarization implies that Phaethon's geometric albedo is lower than the current estimate obtained through radiometric observation. This possibility stems from the potential uncertainty in Phaethon's absolute magnitude. An alternative possibility is that relatively large grains (~300 μm in diameter, presumably due to extensive heating near its perihelion) dominate this asteroid's surface. In addition, the asteroid's surface porosity, if it is substantially large, can also be an effective cause of this polarization.