15 Eunomia

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15 Eunomia 15 Eunomia symbol.svg
15Eunomia (Lightcurve Inversion).png
A three-dimensional model of 15 Eunomia based on its light curve.
Discovered by Annibale de Gasparis
Discovery date July 29, 1851
Pronunciation /jʊˈnmiə/ ew-NOH-mee-ə
Named after
Minor planet category Main belt, (Eunomia family)
Orbital characteristics[1]
Epoch June 14, 2006 (JD 2453900.5)
Aphelion 3.138 AU (469.429 Gm)
Perihelion 2.149 AU (321.429 Gm)
2.643 AU (395.429 Gm)
Eccentricity 0.187
4.30 a (1569.687 d)
18.16 km/s
Inclination 11.738°
Physical characteristics

(357×255×212)±15 km[2]
268 km (mean)

255.3 ± 15 km (IRAS)[1]
Mass 3.12 ×1019 kg[2]
Mean density
3.09 ± 0.52 g/cm³[2]
3.8±0.7 g/cm³[6]
(based on IRAS diameter of 255km)
0.08 m/s²
0.16 km/s
0.2535 d (6.083 h)[1][7]
Albedo 0.209 (geometric)[1]
Temperature ~166 K
max: 260 K (-13 °C)
Spectral type
S-type asteroid[1]
7.9[8] to 11.24
0.29" to 0.085"

15 Eunomia is a very large asteroid in the inner asteroid belt. It is the largest of the stony (S-type) asteroids, and somewhere between the 8th-to-12th-largest main-belt asteroid overall (uncertainty in diameters causes uncertainty in its ranking). It is the largest Eunomian asteroid, and is estimated to contain 1% of the mass of the asteroid belt.[6][9]

Eunomia was discovered by Annibale de Gasparis on July 29, 1851 and named after Eunomia, one of the Horae (Hours), a personification of order and law in Greek mythology.


As the largest S-type asteroid (with 3 Juno being a very close second), Eunomia has attracted a moderate amount of scientific attention. It contains slightly over one percent of the mass of the entire asteroid belt.

Eunomia appears to be an elongated but fairly regularly shaped body, with what appear to be four sides of differing curvature and noticeably different average compositions.[4] Its elongation led to the suggestion that Eunomia may be a binary object, but this has been refuted.[5] It is a retrograde rotator with its pole pointing towards ecliptic coordinates (β, λ) = (-65°, 2°) with a 10° uncertainty.[4][5] This gives an axial tilt of about 165°.

Like other true members of the family, its surface is composed of silicates and some nickel-iron, and is quite bright. Calcium-rich pyroxenes and olivine, along with nickel-iron metal, have been detected on Eunomia's surface. Spectroscopic studies suggest that Eunomia has regions with differing compositions: A larger region dominated by olivine, which is pyroxene-poor and metal-rich, and another somewhat smaller region on one hemisphere (the less pointed end) that is noticeably richer in pyroxene,[4] and has a generally basaltic composition.[10]

This composition indicates that the parent body was likely subject to magmatic processes, and became at least partially differentiated under the influence of internal heating in the early period of the Solar System. The range of compositions of the remaining Eunomian asteroids, formed by a collision of the common parent body, is large enough to encompass all the surface variations on Eunomia itself. Interestingly, the majority of smaller Eunomian asteroids are more pyroxene rich than Eunomia's surface, and contain very few metallic (M-type) bodies.

Altogether, these lines of evidence suggest that Eunomia is the central remnant of the parent body of the Eunomia family, which was stripped of most of its crustal material by the disrupting impact, but was perhaps not disrupted itself. However, there is uncertainty over Eunomia's internal structure and relationship to the parent body. Computer simulations of the collision[11] are more consistent with Eunomia being a re-accumulation of most of the fragments of a completely shattered parent body, yet Eunomia's quite high density would indicate that it is not a rubble pile after all. Whatever the case in this respect, it appears that any metallic core region, if present, has not been exposed.

An older explanation of the compositional differences, that Eunomia is a mantle fragment of a far larger parent body (with a bit of crust on one end, and a bit of core on the other), appears to be ruled out by studies of the mass distribution of the entire Eunomia family. These indicate that the largest fragment (that is, Eunomia) has about 70% of the mass of the parent body,[12] which is consistent with Eunomia being a central remnant, with the crust and part of the mantle stripped off.

These indications are also in accord with recent mass determinations which indicate that Eunomia's density is typical of mostly intact stony asteroids, and not the anomalously low "rubble pile" density of ~1 g/cm³ that had been reported earlier.


The orbit of 15 Eunomia places it in a 7:16 mean motion resonance with the planet Mars. Eunomia is used by the Minor Planet Center to calculate perturbations.[13] The computed Lyapunov time for this asteroid is 25,000 years, indicating that it occupies a chaotic orbit that will change randomly over time because of gravitational perturbations of the planets.[14]

Eunomia has been observed occulting stars three times. It has a mean opposition magnitude of +8.5,[15] about equal to the mean brightness of Titan, and can reach +7.9 at a near perihelion opposition.

Asteroid (50278) 2000 CZ12 passed about 0.00037 AU (55,000 km; 34,000 mi) from Eunomia on March 4, 2002.[16]

Eunomia in fiction[edit]

  • One of the hidden levels in the videogame Descent is an expedition to a secret mine station on asteroid Eunomia.
  • Eunomia is mentioned as one of the five largest asteroids in the science-fiction novel Rendezvous With Rama.
See Asteroids in fiction.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "JPL Small-Body Database Browser: 15 Eunomia". 2008-05-08 last obs. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  2. ^ a b c Jim Baer (2008). "Recent Asteroid Mass Determinations". Personal Website. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  3. ^ Baer, James; Steven R. Chesley (2008). "Astrometric masses of 21 asteroids, and an integrated asteroid ephemeris" (PDF). Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy (Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007) 100 (2008): 27–42. Bibcode:2008CeMDA.100...27B. doi:10.1007/s10569-007-9103-8. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  4. ^ a b c d Nathues, A.; et al.; (2005); Spectral study of the Eunomia asteroid family - I. Eunomia, Icarus, Vol. 175, p. 452
  5. ^ a b c Tanga, P.; et al.; (2003); Asteroid observations with the Hubble Space Telescope; Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol. 401, p. 733
  6. ^ a b Vitagliano, Aldo; Reiner M. Stoss (2006). "New mass determination of (15) Eunomia based on a very close encounter with (50278) 2000CZ12". Astronomy and Astrophysics 455 (3): L29–L31. Bibcode:2006A&A...455L..29V. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20065760. 
  7. ^ Planetary Data System (PDS) lightcurve data
  8. ^ Donald H. Menzel and Jay M. Pasachoff (1983). A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. p. 391. ISBN 0-395-34835-8. 
  9. ^ Pitjeva, E. V. (2005). "High-Precision Ephemerides of Planets—EPM and Determination of Some Astronomical Constants" (PDF). Solar System Research 39 (3): 176. Bibcode:2005SoSyR..39..176P. doi:10.1007/s11208-005-0033-2. Archived from the original on 31 October 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008. : Eunomia 0.164E-11 solar masses; asteroid belt 15E-11 solar masses → 1.1%.
  10. ^ Reed, K. L.; Gaffey, M. J.; and Lebofsky, L. A.; (1997); Shape and Albedo Variations of Asteroid 15 Eunomia, Icarus, Vol. 125, p. 446
  11. ^ Michel, P.; Benz, W.; and Richardson, D. C.; (2001); Catastrophic disruption of pre-shattered parent bodies, Icarus, Vol. 168, p. 420
  12. ^ Tanga, P.; et al.; (1999); On the Size Distribution of Asteroid Families: The Role of Geometry, Icarus, Vol. 141, p. 65
  13. ^ "Perturbing Bodies". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 2013-04-18. 
  14. ^ Šidlichovský, M. (1999), "Resonances and chaos in the asteroid belt", in Svoren, J.; Pittich, E. M.; Rickman, H., Evolution and source regions of asteroids and comets : proceedings of the 173rd colloquium of the International Astronomical Union, held in Tatranska Lomnica, Slovak Republic, August 24–28, 1998: 297–308, Bibcode:1999esra.conf..297S. 
  15. ^ The Brightest Asteroids
  16. ^ "JPL Close-Approach Data: 50278 (2000 CZ12)". 2013-05-31 last obs. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 

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