The formation of asteroid satellites in large impacts: Results from numerical simulations

Daniel D. Durda, William F. Bottke, Brian L. Enke, William J. Merline, Erik Asphaug, Derek C. Richardson, Zoë M. Leinhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


We present results of 161 numerical simulations of impacts into 100-km diameter asteroids, examining debris trajectories to search for the formation of bound satellite systems. Our simulations utilize a 3-dimensional smooth-particle hydrodynamics (SPH) code to model the impact between the colliding asteroids. The outcomes of the SPH models are handed off as the initial conditions for N-body simulations, which follow the trajectories of the ejecta fragments to search for the formation of satellite systems. Our results show that catastrophic and large-scale cratering collisions create numerous fragments whose trajectories can be changed by particle-particle interactions and by the reaccretion of material onto the remaining target body. Some impact debris can enter into orbit around the remaining target body, which is a gravitationally reaccreted rubble pile, to form a SMAshed Target Satellite (SMATS). Numerous smaller fragments escaping the largest remnant may have similar trajectories such that many become bound to one another, forming Escaping Ejecta Binaries (EEBs). Our simulations so far seem to be able to produce satellite systems qualitatively similar to observed systems in the main asteroid belt. We find that impacts of 34-km diameter projectiles striking at 3 km s -1 at impact angles of ∼30° appear to be particularly efficient at producing relatively large satellites around the largest remnant as well as large numbers of modest-size binaries among their escaping ejecta.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-257
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Asteroids
  • Collisional physics
  • Impact processes
  • Satellites, general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The formation of asteroid satellites in large impacts: Results from numerical simulations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this