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Minor planet lightcurves and NEO confirmation

Asteroids are the left-overs of the bricks that formed the planets, some 4.6 Gyr ago. A considerable amount of information regarding the primary planetary formation processes are still present among this population.

Lightcurves of minor planet yields constraints on their spin axis (rotation period and pole coordinates) and 3-D shape. These quantities are pre-requisites to any detailed analysis of the physical properties of minor planets, such as their albedo (capability of matter to reflect light) or density. From many lightcurves (10 to 20), taken over several years, the 3-D shape of any asteroid can be reconstructed. However, by combining random, sparse in time, photometry measurements of asteroids with at least one dense lightcurves, such as CESAR will produce, a spin solution and 3-D shape can be derived.

Future all-sky surveys, such as ESA Gaia or University of Hawai`i PanSTARRS, will randomly produce hundreds of thousands of astrometry and photometry measurements of tens of thousands asteroids. From these sparse photometry measurements, 100 000 low-resolution 3-D 3-D shape models are expected. Regular acquisition of lightcurves of minor planets with CESAR will contribute to this tremendous effort of studying minor planets properties. Combined with the publicly available radiometric measurements in the mid-infrared of asteroids performed by all-sky surveys like WISE, size, 3-D shape, spin, albedo, and density of tens of thousands of asteroids will be derived, allowing for the first time to study this population with a statistical approach.