Letter | Published:

The recent breakup of an asteroid in the main-belt region

Naturevolume 417pages720721 (2002) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

The present population of asteroids in the main belt is largely the result of many past collisions1,2. Ideally, the asteroid fragments resulting from each impact event could help us understand the large-scale collisions that shaped the planets during early epochs3,4,5. Most known asteroid fragment families, however, are very old and have therefore undergone significant collisional and dynamical evolution since their formation6. This evolution has masked the properties of the original collisions. Here we report the discovery of a family of asteroids that formed in a disruption event only 5.8 ± 0.2 million years ago, and which has subsequently undergone little dynamical and collisional evolution5,6. We identified 39 fragments, two of which are large and comparable in size (diameters of 19 and 14 km), with the remainder exhibiting a continuum of sizes in the range 2–7 km. The low measured ejection velocities suggest that gravitational re-accumulation after a collision may be a common feature of asteroid evolution. Moreover, these data can be used to check numerical models of larger-scale collisions8.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Durda, D. D., Greenberg, R. & Jedicke, R. Collisional models and scaling laws: a new interpretation of the shape of the main-belt asteroid size distribution. Icarus 135, 431–440 (1998)

  2. 2

    Michel, P., Benz, W., Tanga, P. & Richardson, D. C. Collisions and gravitational reaccumulation: Forming asteroid families and satellites. Science 294, 1696–1700 (2001)

  3. 3

    Zappalà, V., Cellino, A., Dell'Oro, A. & Paolicchi, P. in Asteroids III (eds Bottke, W. F., Cellino, A., Paolicchi, P. & Binzel, R.) (Univ. Arizona Press, in the press)

  4. 4

    Chambers, J. E. & Wetherill, G. W. Making the terrestrial planets: N-body integrations of planetary embryos in three dimensions. Icarus 136, 304–327 (1998)

  5. 5

    Canup, R. M. & Asphaug, E. Origin of the Moon in a giant impact near the end of the Earth's formation. Nature 412, 708–712 (2001)

  6. 6

    Marzari, F., Davis, D. & Vanzani, V. Collisional evolution of asteroid families. Icarus 113, 168–187 (1995)

  7. 7

    Bottke, W. F., Vokrouhlický, D., Brož, M., Nesvorný, D. & Morbidelli, A. Dynamical spreading of asteroid families by the Yarkovsky effect. Science 294, 1693–1696 (2001)

  8. 8

    Benz, W. & Asphaug, E. Catastrophic disruptions revisited. Icarus 142, 5–20 (1999)

  9. 9

    Hirayama, K. Groups of asteroids probably by common origin. Astron. J. 31, 185–188 (1918)

  10. 10

    Zappalà, V., Cellino, A., Farinella, P. & Milani, A. Asteroid families. II. Extension to unnumbered multiopposition asteroids. Astron. J. 107, 772–801 (1994)

  11. 11

    Milani, A. & Knežević, Z. Asteroid proper elements and the dynamical structure of the asteroid main belt. Icarus 107, 219–254 (1994)

  12. 12

    Milani, A. & Farinella, P. The age of the Veritas asteroid family deduced by chaotic chronology. Nature 370, 40–41 (1994)

  13. 13

    Nesvorný, D., Morbidelli, A., Vokrouhlický, D., Bottke, W. F. & Brož, M. The Flora family: a case of the dynamically dispersed collisional swarm? Icarus (in the press)

  14. 14

    Asteroids Dynamic Sitehttp://hamilton.dm.unipi.it/cgi-bin/astdys/astibo〉 (7 May 2002).

  15. 15

    Morbidelli, A., Zappalà, A., Moons, M., Cellino, A. & Gonczi, R. Asteroid families close to mean motion resonances: Dynamical effect and physical implications. Icarus 118, 132–154 (1995)

  16. 16

    IAU: Minor Planet Centrehttp://cfa-www.harvard.edu/cfa/ps/mpc.html〉 (7 May 2002).

  17. 17

    Levison, H. F. & Duncan, M. The long term dynamical behaviour of short-period comets. Icarus 108, 18–36 (1994)

  18. 18

    Wisdom, J. & Holman, M. Symplectic maps for the n-body problem. Astron. J. 102, 1528–1538 (1991)

  19. 19

    Jedicke, R. & Metcalfe, T. S. The orbital and absolute magnitude distributions of main belt asteroids. Icarus 131, 245–260 (1998)

  20. 20

    Fujiwara, A. et al. in Asteroids II (eds Binzel, R. P., Gehrels, T. & Matthews, M. S.) 240–265 (Univ. Arizona Press, Tucson, 1989)

  21. 21

    Binzel, R. P., Bus, S. J., Burbine, T. H. & Sunshine, J. M. Spectral properties of near-earth asteroids: Evidence for sources of ordinary chondrite meteorites. Science 273, 946–948 (1996)

  22. 22

    http://pdssbn.astro.umd.edu/SBNast/holdings/EAR-A-5-DDR-UBV-MEAN-VALUES-V1.0.html〉 (6 Feb. 2001).

  23. 23

    Clark, B. E., Hapke, B., Pieters, C. & Britt, D. in Asteroids III (eds Bottke, W., Cellino, A., Paolicchi, P. & Binzel, R. P.) (Univ. Arizona Press, in the press)

  24. 24

    Dermott, S. F., Nicholson, P. D., Burns, J. A. & Houck, J. R. Origin of the solar system dust bands discovered by IRAS. Nature 312, 505–509 (1984)

  25. 25

    Grogan, K., Dermott, S. F. & Durda, D. D. The size-frequency distribution of the zodiacal cloud: Evidence from the solar system dust bands. Icarus 152, 251–267 (2001)

  26. 26

    Marti, K. & Graf, T. Cosmic-ray exposure history of ordinary chondrites. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 20, 221–243 (1992)

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank R. Binzel, C. Chapman, D. Durda, O. Eugster, B. Gladman, D. Hamilton, R. Jedicke, A. Morbidelli, F. Namouni and M. Sykes for their suggestions.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Southwest Research Institute, 1050 Walnut St, Suite 426, Boulder, Colorado, 80302, USA

    • David Nesvorný
    • , William F. Bottke Jr
    • , Luke Dones
    •  & Harold F. Levison

Authors

  1. Search for David Nesvorný in:

  2. Search for William F. Bottke Jr in:

  3. Search for Luke Dones in:

  4. Search for Harold F. Levison in:

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Nesvorný.

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Issue Date

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature00789

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.