One of the fundamental properties of a minor planet is its rotation rate, usually expressed in hours.
The periods of nearly 4000 minor planets are now known.
From the results used to create this figure, it is possible to draw several important conclusions from rotational statistics.
The formation of binary minor planets, tumbling action, and period change are most likely due to the YORP effect, which is a thermal process where absorbed sunlight, re-radiated as heat, can affect the minor planet's rotation period and even spin axis orientation. Another effect, the Yarkovsky (the "Y" in YORP), can cause the minor planet's semi-major axis to increase or decrease.
Beyond this, the shape and spin axis orientation of a minor planet can be determined if a sufficient number of lightcurve data are available. For main-belt objects, data from many years, even decades, may be required to get an accurate picture, assuming supplementary data from radar, adaptive optics, and/or occultations are not available.
The minor planet Lightcurve Database (LCDB, Warner et al., 2009, Icarus 202, 134-146) is a repository for minor planet rotation rates and other basic information such as size, albedo, absolute magnitude (H), etc. However, for modeling of shapes and spin axis, and for further development of theories regarding binary formation, tumbling, and the role of the YORP effect, researchers need full access to the complete lightcurve data sets, not just the results of the analysis. The purpose of this site is to allow researchers to upload their observations to a central repository and so make them available for others to use in independent study. As with astrometry data, a standardized format has been adopted so that supplying and using the data requires a minimum of effort. The ALCDEF (Asteroid Lightcurve Data Exchange Format) standard follows a "FITS-like" style, using a header with keyword=value pairs to describe the data and a separate data section with DATA=<data> lines. The full definition is outlined here.
While the data here are in the public domain, proper credit should be give to those who supplied the data. The header section includes contact information for the person who supplied the data and, in some cases, a reference to where the analysis of the original data appeared. Please be fair and give proper recognition to those who gave the time and effort to obtaining the data and then making them available.
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