Analysis of the rotation period of asteroids (1865) Cerberus, (2100) Ra-Shalom, and (3103) Eger-search for the YORP effect
Context. The spin state of small asteroids can change on a long timescale by the Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect, the net torque that arises from anisotropically scattered sunlight and proper thermal radiation from an irregularly-shaped asteroid. The secular change in the rotation period caused by the YORP effect can be detected by analysis of asteroid photometric lightcurves. Aims. We analyzed photometric lightcurves of near-Earth asteroids (1865) Cerberus, (2100) Ra-Shalom, and (3103) Eger with the aim to detect possible deviations from the constant rotation caused by the YORP effect. Methods. We carried out new photometric observations of the three asteroids, combined the new lightcurves with archived data, and used the lightcurve inversion method to model the asteroid shape, pole direction, and rotation rate. The YORP effect was modeled as a linear change in the rotation rate in time dω/dt. Values of dω/dt derived from observations were compared with the values predicted by theory. Results. We derived physical models for all three asteroids. We had to model Eger as a nonconvex body because the convex model failed to fit the lightcurves observed at high phase angles. We probably detected the acceleration of the rotation rate of Eger dω/dt = (1.4 ± 0.6) × 10 -8 rad d -2 (3σ error), which corresponds to a decrease in the rotation period by 4.2 ms yr -1. The photometry of Cerberus and Ra-Shalom was consistent with a constant-period model, and no secular change in the spin rate was detected. We could only constrain maximum values of |dω/dt| < 8 × 10 -9 rad d -2 for Cerberus, and |dω/dt| < 3 × 10 -8 rad d -2 for Ra-Shalom. © 2012 ESO.