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The Transient Dynamical Evolution of Near-Earth Binary Asteroids

Presentation #310.01D in the session Asteroids: Dynamics (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
The Transient Dynamical Evolution of Near-Earth Binary Asteroids

Near-Earth binary asteroids are typically comprised of a kilometer-scale primary asteroid in a mutual orbit with a smaller secondary asteroid. The primary is usually oblate and rotating rapidly, while the secondary is frequently elongated and rotating in a 1:1 synchronous spin-orbit resonance. Due to the often irregular shapes of the asteroids and their proximity in a binary system, spin-orbit coupling is prominent in near-Earth binary asteroid dynamics. This coupled problem has come to be known as the full two-body problem (F2BP) and has been studied extensively in the literature.

Among near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), binaries are common, making up at least 15% of the population. While we have an unprecedented amount of observational and mission data on NEA binaries, most studies done on these systems have focused on the relaxed, equilibrium configuration. However, as made clear by the recent success of the DART mission, we also need an understanding of how these systems behave when perturbed away from equilibrium. Furthermore, owing to the complex, spin-orbit coupled dynamics of these binary asteroids, a traditional Keplerian interpretation of these systems is erroneous. Thus, we must also understand how to interpret observations of these systems, particularly as they depart from the well-studied synchronous equilibrium. Studies of the evolution of NEA binaries typically encompass the full lifecycle of these bodies, from formation to destruction. However, studies of the evolution on transient timescales, from days to years, are lacking in comparison, whereas these timeframes are of the most interest to observations of and missions to these systems. Thus, the study of near-Earth binary asteroid dynamics enables the detailed interpretation of ground-based observations of these systems, leading to a greater scientific return from observation campaigns. This promotes a more thorough understanding of the core evolutionary processes of binary asteroids over timescales ranging from days to years.

We will present our analysis of the perturbed dynamics of NEA binaries motivated by key binary systems, broken down into three primary objectives: 1) connect observations of NEA binaries to numerical models; 2) analyze how the dynamics of binary NEAs are affected by perturbations; 3) model how a perturbed binary asteroid returns to its equilibrium configuration. This analysis will provide greater context for observation campaigns, as we predict how various dynamical states of NEA binaries may appear in the data.

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