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, 417 (6890), 720-71

The Recent Breakup of an Asteroid in the Main-Belt Region


The Recent Breakup of an Asteroid in the Main-Belt Region

David Nesvorný et al. Nature.


The present population of asteroids in the main belt is largely the result of many past collisions. Ideally, the asteroid fragments resulting from each impact event could help us understand the large-scale collisions that shaped the planets during early epochs. Most known asteroid fragment families, however, are very old and have therefore undergone significant collisional and dynamical evolution since their formation. This evolution has masked the properties of the original collisions. Here we report the discovery of a family of asteroids that formed in a disruption event only 5.8 +/- 0.2 million years ago, and which has subsequently undergone little dynamical and collisional evolution. We identified 39 fragments, two of which are large and comparable in size (diameters of approximately 19 and approximately 14 km), with the remainder exhibiting a continuum of sizes in the range 2-7 km. The low measured ejection velocities suggest that gravitational re-accumulation after a collision may be a common feature of asteroid evolution. Moreover, these data can be used to check numerical models of larger-scale collisions.

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