Matching asteroid population characteristics with a model constructed from the YORP-induced rotational fission hypothesis

Seth A. Jacobson*, Francesco Marzari, Alessandro Rossi, Daniel J. Scheeres

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


From the results of a comprehensive asteroid population evolution model, we conclude that the YORP-induced rotational fission hypothesis is consistent with the observed population statistics of small asteroids in the main belt including binaries and contact binaries. These conclusions rest on the asteroid rotation model of Marzari et al. ([2011]Icarus, 214, 622-631), which incorporates both the YORP effect and collisional evolution. This work adds to that model the rotational fission hypothesis, described in detail within, and the binary evolution model of Jacobson et al. ([2011a] Icarus, 214, 161-178) and Jacobson et al. ([2011b] The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 736, L19). Our complete asteroid population evolution model is highly constrained by these and other previous works, and therefore it has only two significant free parameters: the ratio of low to high mass ratio binaries formed after rotational fission events and the mean strength of the binary YORP (BYORP) effect.We successfully reproduce characteristic statistics of the small asteroid population: the binary fraction, the fast binary fraction, steady-state mass ratio fraction and the contact binary fraction. We find that in order for the model to best match observations, rotational fission produces high mass ratio (> 0.2) binary components with four to eight times the frequency as low mass ratio (<0.2) components, where the mass ratio is the mass of the secondary component divided by the mass of the primary component. This is consistent with post-rotational fission binary system mass ratio being drawn from either a flat or a positive and shallow distribution, since the high mass ratio bin is four times the size of the low mass ratio bin; this is in contrast to the observed steady-state binary mass ratio, which has a negative and steep distribution. This can be understood in the context of the BYORP-tidal equilibrium hypothesis, which predicts that low mass ratio binaries survive for a significantly longer period of time than high mass ratio systems. We also find that the mean of the log-normal BYORP coefficient distribution μB10-2, which is consistent with estimates from shape modeling (McMahon and Scheeres, 2012a).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-394
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Asteroids
  • Asteroids, rotation
  • Satellites of asteroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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