A new approach to modelling impacts on rubble pile asteroid simulants

Deller, J. F.; Lowry, S. C.; Snodgrass, C.; Price, M. C. and Sierks, H. (2016). A new approach to modelling impacts on rubble pile asteroid simulants. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 455(4) pp. 3752–3762.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stv2584


Many asteroids with low bulk densities must have a rubble pile structure and internal voids. Although little is known about their internal structure, numerical simulations of impact events on these asteroids rely on assumptions on how the voids are distributed. We present a new approach to model impacts on rubble pile asteroids that explicitly takes into account their internal structure. The formation of the asteroid is modelled as a rubble pile aggregate of spherical pebbles of different sizes. This aggregate is then converted into a high-resolution smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) model, accounting for macroporosity inside the pebbles. We compare impact-event outcomes for a large set of internal configurations to explore the parameter space of our model-building process. The analysis of the fragment size distribution and the disruption threshold quantifies the specific influence of each input parameter. The size distribution of the pebbles used in our model is a simple power law, containing three free parameters: the slope α, the lower cut-off radius rmin and the upper cut-off radius rmax. The influence of all three parameters on the outcome is assessed in this paper. The existence of void space in our model increases the resistance against collisional disruption, a behaviour previously reported based on numerical simulations using a continuum description of porous material (Holsapple 2009). We show, for a set of asteroid collisions typical for small asteroids in the main belt, that no a priori knowledge of the exact size distribution of the pebbles inside the asteroid is needed, as the choice of the corresponding parameters does not directly correlate with the impact outcome.

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