Looking into the evolution of granular asteroids in the Solar System
1 Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, University of Colorado Boulder, 431 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0431, USA
2 Aerospace Engineering Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, 429 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0429, USA
3 Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, 550, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
Published online: 30 June 2017
By now it has been accepted that most of the small asteroids in the Solar System are granular aggregates kept together by gravitational and possibly, cohesive forces. These aggregates can form, deform and disrupt over millennia subjected to different internal and external factors that would ultimately determine how they evolve over time. Parameters such as porosity, cohesive and tensile strength, angles of friction, particle size distributions, stress states, heterogeneity and yield criteria among others, determine how these granular systems will react when subjected to different, changing, external factors. These external factors include solar photon momentum, gravitational tides, micro- and macro-impacts and are believed to have produced and shaped the current asteroid population. In our research we use a combination of Soil Mechanics theory, Soft-Sphere Discrete Element Method (SSDEM) Simulations and Orbital Mechanics in order to understand how simulated, homogeneous and heterogeneous, ellipsoidal and spherical gravitational aggregates, a crude but useful representation of an asteroid, evolve when rotated to the point of disruption. Then, we compare our results to the shapes of observed asteroids as well as to the disruption patterns of a few active asteroids. Our results lead us to believe that the different shapes of observed asteroids as well as their unique disruption patterns could give us clues about their internal structure, strength and geophysical properties in general.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2017
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.