Collisional history of asteroids: Evidence from Vesta and the Hirayama families

Donald R. Davis, Clark R. Chapman, Stuart J. Weidenschilling, Richard Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

196 Scopus citations


Collisional evolution studies of asteroids indicate that the initial asteroid population at the time mean collisional velocities were pumped up to ∼5 km/sec was only modestly larger than it is today; i.e., the asteroid belt was already depleted relative to the mean surface density elsewhere in the planetary region. Numerical simulations of the collisional evolution of hypothetical initial asteroid populations have been run, subject to three constraints: they must (a) evolve to the present observed asteroid size distribution, (b) preserve Vesta's basaltic crust, and (c) produce at least the observed number of major Hirayama families. A "runaway growth" initial asteroid population distribution is found to best satisfy these constraints. A new model is presented for calculating the fragmental size distribution for the disruption of large, gravitationally bound bodies in which the material strength is increased by hydrostatic self-compression. This model predicts that large asteroid behave as intrinsically strong bodies, even if they have had a history of being collisionally fractured. This model, when applied to the breakup of the Themis and Eos family parent bodies, gives size distributions in reasonably good agreement with those observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-53
Number of pages24
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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