Geophysics of Small Planetary Bodies

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Geophysics of Small Planetary Bodies

  • Erik I., Asphaug
Publication Date
Jul 31, 1998
SETI Institute


As a SETI Institute PI from 1996-1998, Erik Asphaug studied impact and tidal physics and other geophysical processes associated with small (low-gravity) planetary bodies. This work included: a numerical impact simulation linking basaltic achondrite meteorites to asteroid 4 Vesta (Asphaug 1997), which laid the groundwork for an ongoing study of Martian meteorite ejection; cratering and catastrophic evolution of small bodies (with implications for their internal structure; Asphaug et al. 1996); genesis of grooved and degraded terrains in response to impact; maturation of regolith (Asphaug et al. 1997a); and the variation of crater outcome with impact angle, speed, and target structure. Research of impacts into porous, layered and prefractured targets (Asphaug et al. 1997b, 1998a) showed how shape, rheology and structure dramatically affects sizes and velocities of ejecta, and the survivability and impact-modification of comets and asteroids (Asphaug et al. 1998a). As an affiliate of the Galileo SSI Team, the PI studied problems related to cratering, tectonics, and regolith evolution, including an estimate of the impactor flux around Jupiter and the effect of impact on local and regional tectonics (Asphaug et al. 1998b). Other research included tidal breakup modeling (Asphaug and Benz 1996; Schenk et al. 1996), which is leading to a general understanding of the role of tides in planetesimal evolution. As a Guest Computational Investigator for NASA s BPCC/ESS supercomputer testbed, helped graft SPH3D onto an existing tree code tuned for the massively parallel Cray T3E (Olson and Asphaug, in preparation), obtaining a factor xIO00 speedup in code execution time (on 512 cpus). Runs which once took months are now completed in hours.

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