Long-term stable equilibria for synchronous binary asteroids

Seth A. Jacobson*, Daniel J. Scheeres

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations

Abstract

Synchronous binary asteroids may exist in a long-term stable equilibrium, where the opposing torques from mutual body tides and the binary YORP (BYORP) effect cancel. Interior of this equilibrium, mutual body tides are stronger than the BYORP effect and the mutual orbit semimajor axis expands to the equilibrium; outside of the equilibrium, the BYORP effect dominates the evolution and the system semimajor axis will contract to the equilibrium. If the observed population of small (0.1-10km diameter) synchronous binaries are in static configurations that are no longer evolving, then this would be confirmed by a null result in the observational tests for the BYORP effect. The confirmed existence of this equilibrium combined with a shape model of the secondary of the system enables the direct study of asteroid geophysics through the tidal theory. The observed synchronous asteroid population cannot exist in this equilibrium if described by the canonical "monolithic" geophysical model. The "rubble pile" geophysical model proposed by Goldreich & Sari is sufficient, however it predicts a tidal Love number directly proportional to the radius of the asteroid, while the best fit to the data predicts a tidal Love number inversely proportional to the radius. This deviation from the canonical and Goldreich & Sari models motivates future study of asteroid geophysics. Ongoing BYORP detection campaigns will determine whether these systems are in an equilibrium, and future determination of secondary shapes will allow direct determination of asteroid geophysical parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL19
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume736
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 20 2011

Keywords

  • celestial mechanics
  • minor planets, asteroids: general
  • planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability
  • planets and satellites: fundamental parameters
  • planets and satellites: interiors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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