Dynamical History of the Asteroid Belt and Implications for Terrestrial Planet Bombardment
AuthorMinton, David A.
Committee ChairMalhotra, Renu
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe main asteroid belt spans ~2-4 AU in heliocentric distance and is sparsely populated by rocky debris. The dynamical structure of the main belt records clues to past events in solar system history. Evidence from the structure of the Kuiper belt, an icy debris belt beyond Neptune, suggests that the giant planets were born in a more compact configuration and later experienced planetesimal-driven planet migration. Giant planet migration caused both mean motion and secular resonances to sweep across the main asteroid belt, raising the eccentricity of asteroids into planet-crossing orbits and depleting the belt. I show that the present-day semimajor axis and eccentricity distributions of large main belt asteroids are consistent with excitation and depletion due to resonance sweeping during the epoch of giant planet migration. I also use an analytical model of the sweeping of the ν6 secular resonance, to set limits on the migration speed of Saturn.After planet migration, dynamical chaos became the dominant loss mechanism for asteroids with diameters D>10 km in the current asteroid belt. I find that the dynamical loss history of test particles from this region is well described with a logarithmic decay law. My model suggests that the rate of impacts from large asteroids may have declined by a factor of three over the last ~3 Gy, and that the present-day impact flux of D>10 km objects on the terrestrial planets is roughly an order of magnitude less than estimates used in crater chronologies and impact hazard risk assessments.Finally, I have quantified the change in the solar wind 6Li/7Li ratio due to the estimated in-fall of chondritic material and enhanced dust production during the epoch of planetesimal-driven giant planet migration. The solar photosphere is currently highly depleted in lithium relative to chondrites, and 6Li is expected to be far less abundant in the sun than 7Li due to the different nuclear reaction rates of the two isotopes. Evidence for a short-lived impact cataclysm that affected the entire inner solar system may be found in the composition of implanted solar wind particles in lunar regolith.
Degree ProgramPlanetary Sciences