52 Europa

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52 Europa (pronounced /jʊˈroʊpə/ ew-ROE-pə) is one of the larger asteroids in the asteroid belt, having a diameter of 300 km. It was discovered on February 4, 1858, by Hermann Goldschmidt from his balcony in Paris. It is named after Europa, one of Zeus's conquests in Greek mythology, a name it shares with Jupiter's moon Europa.


Physical characteristics

Europa is approximately the seventh largest asteroid by volume. However, it has a low density (i.e. is highly porous), presumably through having suffered a particularly severe collision.[1] In 2001, Michalak estimated Europa to have a mass of (5.2±1.8)×1019 kg.[3] In 2007, James Baer and Steven R. Chesley estimated Europa to have a mass of (1.9±0.4)×1019 kg.[1] A more recent estimate by Baer suggests it has a mass of 1.65×1019 kg.[2]

Europa is a very dark carbonaceous C-type, and is the fourth largest of this group. Spectroscopic studies have found evidence of olivines and pyroxenes on the surface,[5] and there is some indication that there may be compositional differences between different regions[4] It orbits close to the Hygiea asteroid family, but is not a member.

Lightcurve data for Europa has been particularly tricky to interpret, so much so that for a long time its period of rotation was in dispute (ranging from 5 and a half hours to 11 hours), despite numerous observations.[8] It has now been determined that Europa is a prograde rotator, but the exact direction in which its pole points remains ambiguous. The most detailed analysis indicates that it points either towards about ecliptic coordinates (β, λ) = (70°, 55°) or (40°, 255°) with a 10° uncertainty.[2]. This gives an axial tilt of about 14° or 54°, respectively.

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