The Dynamical Spin Vector Evolution of the Asteroids

The dynamical evolution of the spin axis direction due to gravitational and thermal factors is examined. It is found that the spin axis variations generally are regular and relatively small for the bodies in the asteroid main belt. There are also reasons to believe that this is the case for minor objects beyond the main belt. However, it is found that these regular variations are larger when the orbital inclination of the objects is increased. This effect may explain certain features in the spin vector distribution of the main belt asteroids, not possible to explain by collisional factors. The spin vector evolution of the asteroids in the inner solar system, including the Earth- and Mars-crossing objects, is often subjected to strong forces related to frequencies in the orbital evolution. The variations in the spin vector direction are then very large and often subjected to chaos. The larger frequency related obliquity zones of the Mars-crossers are usually regular while the zones of the Earth-Mars-crossers often are of a chaotic nature. The spin vector evolution of asteroids with comet-like orbits is often chaotic regardless of initial obliquity. For the inner solar system asteroids, it is often possible for an initial prograde spin to turn into a retrograde one, or vice versa, due to the frequency related phenomena. Though some spin vector directions seem to be more probable than other ones over time, there are no indications for an evolution towards a more prograde or a more retrograde spin vector distribution The effects on the spin vector evolution from the thermal Yarkovsky force are examined for objects with radii larger than 50 m. This force will affect the orbital evolution and thus indirectly affect the spin vector evolution. However, it is found that the studied effects are minor as compared to the gravitationally related ones. This is true both for the diurnal and the seasonal variants of the Yarkovsky force.

Author: Skoglöv, Erik

Source: Uppsala University Library

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