Geological and geophysical constraints on Itokawa’s past spin periods

Susorney, Hannah C.M.; Philpott, Lydia C.; Ballouz, Ronald L.; Johnson, Catherine L.; Rozitis, Benjamin and Jawin, Erica R. (2021). Geological and geophysical constraints on Itokawa’s past spin periods. Icarus, 357, article no. 114265.



Itokawa has two distinct terrain types, rough highlands, and smooth lowlands. The lowlands formed by the movement of fine-grained materials from the highlands into topographic lows, covering up large boulders and producing a smooth surface. The topography of asteroids is a function of the shape, interior density, and spin rate. Itokawa, like many near-earth objects, may have experienced changes in its spin period due to YORP. Changes in spin period compared with the current 12.13 h period, may result in changes in the location of topographic lows and thus the concentration of fines in the lows. Under faster spin periods, ∼8 h or less, the northern topographic low, currently Sagamihara, changes location, but the southern lowland, Muses-Sea, stays in the same location. Above ∼8 h the topographic lows match the current geographic extent of the fine-grain lowlands. Current estimates of the timescale of regolith migration based on seismic shaking span several orders of magnitude. However, if these can be further refined, the location of the northern lowlands could be used as a constraint on the past spin rates of Itokawa The methods used in this study could be applied to other asteroids and may place an independent constraint on past spin periods.

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