Binary yorp effect and evolution of binary asteroids

Elad Steinberg*, Re'em Sari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The rotation states of kilometer-sized near-Earth asteroids are known to be affected by the Yarkevsky O'Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect. In a related effect, binary YORP (BYORP), the orbital properties of a binary asteroid evolve under a radiation effect mostly acting on a tidally locked secondary. The BYORP effect can alter the orbital elements over ∼104-10 5 years for a Dp = 2 km primary with a Ds = 0.4 km secondary at 1 AU. It can either separate the binary components or cause them to collide. In this paper, we devise a simple approach to calculate the YORP effect on asteroids and the BYORP effect on binaries including J 2 effects due to primary oblateness and the Sun.We apply this to asteroids with known shapes as well as a set of randomly generated bodies with various degrees of smoothness. We find a strong correlation between the strengths of an asteroid's YORP and BYORP effects. Therefore, statistical knowledge of one could be used to estimate the effect of the other. We show that the action of BYORP preferentially shrinks rather than expands the binary orbit and that YORP preferentially slows down asteroids. This conclusion holds for the two extremes of thermal conductivities studied in this work and the assumption that the asteroid reaches a stable point, but may break down for moderate thermal conductivity. The YORP and BYORP effects are shown to be smaller than could be naively expected due to near cancellation of the effects at small scales. Taking this near cancellation into account, a simple order-of-magnitude estimate of the YORP and BYORP effects as a function of the sizes and smoothness of the bodies is calculated. Finally, we provide a simple proof showing that there is no secular effect due to absorption of radiation in BYORP.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Minor planets, asteroids: General
  • Planets and satellites: Dynamical evolution and stability


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