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Near-Earth asteroids destroyed by tidal forces during planetary flybys

Presentation #202.02 in the session Asteroid Dynamics.

Published onOct 20, 2022
Near-Earth asteroids destroyed by tidal forces during planetary flybys

Numerical modeling has long suggested that gravitationally-bound near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) can be destroyed by tidal forces during close and slow encounters with terrestrial planets. However, there has so far been hardly any evidence of tidal disruptions actually occuring in the innermost regions of the Solar System. We present population-level evidence for the tidal disruption of NEAs during close encounters with the Earth and Venus.

A comparison between observations and model distributions for NEA orbits and absolute magnitudes shows that the models underpredict the number of NEAs with perihelion distance coinciding with the semimajor axes of Venus and the Earth. A detailed analysis of the excess NEAs shows that their characteristics agree with the prediction for tidal disruptions, and they cannot be explained by observational selection effects or orbital dynamics.

Accounting for tidal disruptions in evolutionary models of the NEA population that are calibrated with detection statistics from ongoing and planned NEA surveys will eventually allow us to place useful constraints on asteroid interior structure, one of the main knowledge gaps in contemporary planetary science.

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