Institution(s): 1. University of Colorado
An active research area over the last decade has been to explore configuration changes of rubble pile asteroids due to rotationally induced disruption, initially driven by the remarkable fact that there is a spin period threshold of 2 hr for asteroids larger than a few hundred meters in size. Several different disruption modes due to rapid rotation can be identified, as surface shedding, fission and failure of the internal structure. Relevant to these discussions are many observations of asteroid shapes that have revealed a diversity of forms such as oblate spheroids with equatorial ridges, strongly elongated shapes and contact binaries, to say nothing of multi-body systems. With consideration that rotationally induced deformation is one of the primary drivers of asteroid evolution, we have been developing two techniques for investigating the structure of asteroids, while accounting for their internal mechanical properties through plastic theory. The first technique developed is an analytical model based on limit analysis, which provides rigorous bounds on the asteroid mechanical properties for their shapes to remain stable. The second technique applies finite element model analysis that accounts for plastic deformation. Combining these models, we have explored the correlation between unique shape features and failure modes. First, we have been able to show that contact binary asteroids preferentially fail at their narrow necks at a relatively slow spin period, due to stress concentration. Second, applying these techniques to the breakup event of active asteroid P/2013 R3, we have been able to develop explicit constraints on the cohesion within rubble pile asteroids. Third, by probing the effect of inhomogeneous material properties, we have been able to develop conditions for whether an oblate body will fail internally or through surface shedding. These different failure modes can be tested by measuring the density distribution within a rubble pile body through determination of its gravity field. This talk will explore these different modes of failure and motivate divergent theories of failure that depend on properties of rubble piles.