34th Meeting of the AAS Division on Dynamical Astronomy, May 2003
1 Asteroids
Invited, Monday, May 5, 2003, 8:40-10:20am,

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[1.02] Invited: Morphological Evolution of Asteroids

D. C. Richardson (University of Maryland)

Recent ground- and space-based observations of asteroids have revealed that these bodies are far more complex than once imagined. Surprisingly low bulk densities, giant craters, unusual shapes, non-principal-axis spin states, and satellites are all challenging our understanding of how asteroids form and evolve. Since asteroids are the remnants of the planet building era, understanding their nature improves our understanding of the origin of solar systems in general. I will review some of the more puzzling aspects of asteroid morphology, including the existence of asteroid satellites, and discuss recent theoretical advances aimed at understanding our tiny neighbors. I will show that both theoretical and observational evidence is pointing increasingly to asteroids being fragile assemblages of smaller pieces, called gravitational aggregates. The consequences of such fragmented internal structure on asteroid evolution and hazard mitigation will be discussed. This work has been supported in part by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under Contract No. NAG511722 issued through the Office of Space Science.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.