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A Laboratory Impact Study of Simulated Edgeworth–Kuiper Belt Objects

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/icar.1999.6209
  • Design


Abstract This paper reports on a series of laboratory impact experiments designed to provide basic data on how simulated Edgeworth–Kuiper belt objects (EKOs) fragment in an impact event. In September–October 1997 we carried out 20 low-velocity airgun shots at the Ames Vertical Gun Range into porous and homogeneous ice spheres using aluminum, fractured ice, and solid ice projectiles. We found that the porous ice targets behaved as strongly as solid ice in collision. Energy is apparently well dissipated by the void spaces within the target, such that these fragile ice structures respond as if they were strong in impacts. Therefore, it would appear that if EKOs are porous, they are not collisionally weak. Also, our data show that collisional outcomes for low-velocity impacts into ice targets depend on the type of projectile used as well as the properties of the target. We observed that the degree of fragmentation for a given type of target increases as the strength of the projectile increases. Aluminum projectiles are far more damaging to the target at the same collisional energy than are solid ice projectiles, which, in turn, are more damaging than fractured ice projectiles. One possible explanation for this behavior is the variable depth of penetration of the projectile for the different cases—stronger projectiles penetrate more deeply and couple more energy into the target than do weak projectiles. Based on this, if we assume that there has not been significant heating or differentiation in the Edgeworth–Kuiper (E–K) belt, the most applicable impact strength for the low-velocity E–K belt collisions is likely to be that derived from similar target/projectile materials impacting each other. The laboratory data from this analysis indicate that a value for impact strength>5×10 5 erg/cm 3 is appropriate for porous ice targets impacted with solid/porous ice projectiles.

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