The spherical Brazil Nut Effect and its significance to asteroids

Viranga Perera, Alan P. Jackson, Erik Asphaug, Ronald Louis Ballouz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Many asteroids are likely rubble-piles that are a collection of smaller objects held together by gravity and possibly cohesion. These asteroids are seismically shaken by impacts, which leads to excitation of their constituent particles. As a result it has been suggested that their surfaces and sub-surface interiors may be governed by a size sorting mechanism known as the Brazil Nut Effect. We study the behavior of a model asteroid that is a spherical, self-gravitating aggregate with a binary size-distribution of particles under the action of applied seismic shaking. We find that above a seismic threshold, larger particles rise to the surface when friction is present, in agreement with previous studies that focussed on cylindrical and rectangular box configurations. Unlike previous works we also find that size sorting takes place even with zero friction, though the presence of friction does aid the sorting process above the seismic threshold. Additionally we find that while strong size sorting can take place near the surface, the innermost regions remain unsorted under even the most vigorous shaking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-203
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Asteroids
  • Asteroids surfaces
  • Interiors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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