A comparison between rubble-pile and monolithic targets in impact simulations: Application to asteroid satellites and family size distributions

Paula G. Benavidez, Daniel D. Durda, Brian L. Enke, William F. Bottke, David Nesvorný, Derek C. Richardson, Erik Asphaug, William J. Merline

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Collisions are a fundamental process in the creation of asteroid families and in satellite formation. For this reason, understanding the outcome of impacts is fundamental to the accurate modeling of the formation and evolution of such systems. Smoothed-Particle Hydrodynamics/N-body codes have become the techniques of choice to study large-scale impact outcomes, including both the fragmentation of the parent body and the gravitational interactions between fragments. It is now possible to apply this technique to targets with either monolithic or rubble-pile internal structures. In this paper we apply these numerical techniques to rubble-pile targets, extending previous investigations by Durda et al. (Durda, D.D., Bottke, W.F., Enke, B.L., Merline, W.J., Asphaug, E., Richardson, D.C., Leinhardt, Z.M. [2004]. Icarus 170, 243-257; Durda, D.D., Bottke, W.F., Nesvorný, D., Enke, B.L., Merline, W.J., Asphaug, E., Richardson, D.C. [2007]. Icarus 186, 498-516). The goals are to study asteroid-satellite formation and the morphology of the size-frequency distributions (SFDs) from 175 impact simulations covering a range of collision speeds, impact angles, and impactor sizes. Our results show that low-energy impacts into rubble-pile and monolithic targets produce different features in the resulting SFDs and that these are potentially diagnostic of the initial conditions for the impact and the internal structure of the parent bodies of asteroid families. In contrast, super-catastrophic events (i.e., high-energy impacts with large specific impact energy) result in SFDs that are similar to each other. We also find that rubble-pile targets are less efficient in producing satellites than their monolithic counterparts. However, some features, such as the secondary-to-primary diameter ratio and the relative separation of components in binary systems, are similar for these two different internal structures of parent bodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-76
Number of pages20
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Asteroids
  • Collisional physics
  • Impact processes
  • Satellites, General

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A comparison between rubble-pile and monolithic targets in impact simulations: Application to asteroid satellites and family size distributions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this