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Binary asteroid encounters with terrestrial planets: Timescales and effects

  • Author(s): Fang, J
  • Margot, JL
  • et al.

Many asteroids that make close encounters with terrestrial planets are in a binary configuration. Here, we calculate the relevant encounter timescales and investigate the effects of encounters on a binary's mutual orbit. We use a combination of analytical and numerical approaches with a wide range of initial conditions. Our test cases include generic binaries with close, moderate, and wide separations, as well as seven well-characterized near-Earth binaries. We find that close approaches (<10 Earth radii) occur for almost all binaries on 1-10 million year timescales. At such distances, our results suggest substantial modifications to a binary's semimajor axis, eccentricity, and inclination, which we quantify. Encounters within 30 Earth radii typically occur on sub-million year timescales and significantly affect the wider binaries. Important processes in the lives of near-Earth binaries, such as tidal and radiative evolution, can be altered or stopped by planetary encounters.

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