Hygiea (minor planet designation: 10 Hygiea) is a major asteroid located in the main asteroid belt. With somewhat oblong diameters of 350–500 kilometres (220–310 mi) and a mass estimated to be 2.9% of the total mass of the belt, is the fourth-largest asteroid in the Solar System by both volume and mass. In some spectral classifications it is the largest of the dark C-type asteroids with a carbonaceous surface, in others it is second after 1 Ceres.
Lightcurve-based 3D-model of Hygiea
|Discovered by||A. de Gasparis|
|Discovery date||12 April 1849|
|MPC designation||(10) Hygiea|
|Main belt (Hygiea family)|
|Orbital characteristics |
|Epoch 27 April 2019 (JD 2458600.5)|
|Uncertainty parameter 0|
|Observation arc||169.40 yr (61,872 days)|
|5.57 yr (2033.8 days)|
Average orbital speed
|Proper orbital elements |
Proper semi-major axis
Proper mean motion
|64.6218 deg / yr|
Proper orbital period
Precession of perihelion
|128.544 arcsec / yr|
Precession of the ascending node
|−96.9024 arcsec / yr|
|Dimensions||530×407×370 ±7 km|
431 km (mean)
|Mass||(8.55 ± 0.74)×1019 kg[note 1]|
|1.85 ± 0.12 g/cm³|
|27.623 h (1.15 d)|
max: 247 K (−26°C) 
|9.0 to 11.97|
|0.321″ to 0.133″|
Despite its size, Hygiea appears very dim when observed from Earth. This is due to its dark surface and farther-than-average distance from the Sun. For this reason, six smaller asteroids were observed before Annibale de Gasparis discovered Hygiea on 12 April 1849. At most oppositions, Hygiea has a magnitude that is four magnitudes dimmer than Vesta's, and observing it typically requires at least a 100-millimetre (4 in) telescope. However, while at a perihelic opposition, it can often be observed just with 10x50 binoculars as Hygiea would have a magnitude of +9.1.
Discovery and nameEdit
On 12 April 1849, in Naples, Italy, astronomer Annibale de Gasparis (age 29) discovered Hygiea. It was the first of his nine asteroid discoveries. The director of the Naples observatory, Ernesto Capocci, named the asteroid. He chose to call it Igea Borbonica ("Bourbon Hygieia") in honor of the ruling family of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies where Naples was located.
In 1852, John Russell Hind wrote that "it is universally termed Hygiea, the unnecessary appendage 'Borbonica' being dropped" (as well as the final "ia" in favor of just "a"). The name comes from Hygieia, the Greek goddess of health, daughter of Asclepius (Aesculapius for the Romans). The name was occasionally misspelled Hygeia in the 19th century, for example in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Based on spectral evidence, Hygiea's surface is thought to consist of primitive carbonaceous materials similar to those found in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. Aqueous alteration products have been detected on its surface, which could indicate the presence of water ice in the past which was heated sufficiently to melt. The primitive present surface composition would indicate that Hygiea had not been melted during the early period of Solar System formation, in contrast to other large planetesimals like 4 Vesta.
Hygiea is the main member of the Hygiea family and contains almost all the mass (well over 90%) in this family. It is the largest of the class of dark C-type asteroids that are dominant in the outer asteroid belt—which lie beyond the Kirkwood gap at 2.82 AU. Hygiea appears to have a noticeably oblate spheroid shape, with an average diameter of 444 ± 35 km and a semimajor axis ratio of 1.11. This is much more than for the other objects in the "big four"—2 Pallas, 4 Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. Aside from being the smallest of the four, Hygiea, like Ceres, has a relatively low density, which is more comparable to the icy satellites of Jupiter or Saturn than to the terrestrial planets or the stony asteroids.
Although it is the largest body in its region, due to its dark surface and farther-than-average distance from the Sun, Hygiea appears very dim when observed from Earth. In fact, it is the third dimmest of the first twenty-three asteroids discovered, with only 13 Egeria and 17 Thetis having lower mean opposition magnitudes. At most oppositions, Hygiea has a magnitude of around +10.2, which is as much as four orders fainter than Vesta, and observation calls for at least a 4-inch (100 mm) telescope to resolve. However, at a perihelic opposition, Hygiea can reach +9.1 magnitude and may just be resolvable with 10x50 binoculars, unlike the next two largest asteroids in the asteroid belt, 704 Interamnia and 511 Davida, which are always beyond binocular visibility.
At least five stellar occultations by Hygiea have been tracked by Earth-based astronomers, including two (in 2002 and 2014) that were seen by a large number of observers. The observations have been used to contrain Hygiea's size, shape and rotation axis. The Hubble Space Telescope has resolved the asteroid and ruled out the presence of any orbiting companions larger than about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) in diameter.
Orbit and rotationEdit
Generally, Hygiea's properties are the most poorly known out of the "big four" objects in the asteroid belt. Its orbit is much closer to the plane of the ecliptic than those of Ceres, Pallas or Interamnia, but is less circular than Ceres or Vesta with an eccentricity of around 0.12. Its perihelion is at a quite similar longitude to those of Vesta and Ceres, though its ascending and descending nodes are opposite to the corresponding ones for those objects. Although its perihelion is extremely close to the mean distance of Ceres and Pallas, a collision between Hygiea and its larger companions is impossible because at that distance they are always on opposite sides of the ecliptic. In 2056, Hygiea will pass 0.025 AU from Ceres, and then in 2063, Hygiea will pass 0.020 AU from Pallas. At aphelion Hygiea reaches out to the extreme edge of the asteroid belt at the perihelia of the Hilda family which is in a 3:2 orbital resonance with Jupiter. Hygiea is used by the Minor Planet Center to calculate perturbations.
Hygiea is an unusually slow rotator, taking 27 hours and 37 minutes for it to make a full rotation, whereas 6 to 12 hours are more typical for large asteroids. Its direction of rotation is not certain at present, due to a twofold ambiguity in lightcurve data that is exacerbated by its long rotation period—which makes single-night telescope observations span at best only a fraction of a full rotation—but it is believed to be retrograde. Lightcurve analysis indicates that Hygiea's pole points towards either ecliptic coordinates (β, λ) = (30°, 115°) or (30°, 300°) with a 10° uncertainty. This gives an axial tilt of about 60° in both cases.
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- Shape model deduced from lightcurve
- A simulation of the orbit of Hygiea
- JPL Ephemeris
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- 10 Hygiea at the JPL Small-Body Database