Size-frequency distributions of fragments from SPH/N-body simulations of asteroid impacts: Comparison with observed asteroid families

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


We investigate the morphology of size-frequency distributions (SFDs) resulting from impacts into 100-km-diameter parent asteroids, represented by a suite of 161 SPH/N-body simulations conducted to study asteroid satellite formation [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]. The spherical basalt projectiles range in diameter from 10 to 46 km (in equally spaced mass increments in logarithmic space, covering six discrete sizes), impact speeds range from 2.5 to 7 km/s (generally in 1 km/s increments), and impact angles range from 15° to 75° (nearly head-on to very oblique) in 15° increments. These modeled SFD morphologies match very well the observed SFDs of many known asteroid families. We use these modeled SFDs to scale to targets both larger and smaller than 100 km in order to gain insights into the circumstances of the impacts that formed these families. Some discrepancies occur for families with parent bodies smaller than a few tens of kilometers in diameter (e.g., 832 Karin), however, so due caution should be used in applying our results to such small families. We find that ∼20 observed main-belt asteroid families are produced by the catastrophic disruption of D > 100  km parent bodies. Using these data as constraints, collisional modeling work [Bottke Jr., W.F., Durda, D.D., Nesvorný, D., Jedicke, R., Morbidelli, A., Vokrouhlický, D., Levison, H.F., 2005b. Icarus 179, 63-94] suggests that the threshold specific energy, QD*, needed to eject 50% of the target body's mass is very close to that predicted by Benz and Asphaug [Benz, W., Asphaug, E., 1999. Icarus 142, 5-20].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-516
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Asteroids
  • Collisional physics
  • Impact processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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