Modeling and analysis of periodic orbits around a contact binary asteroid

Feng, Jinglang and Noomen, Ron and Visser, Pieter N.A.M. and Yuan, Jianping (2015) Modeling and analysis of periodic orbits around a contact binary asteroid. Astrophysics and Space Science, 357 (2). ISSN 0004-640X

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    Abstract

    The existence and characteristics of periodic orbits (POs) in the vicinity of a contact binary asteroid are investigated with an averaged spherical harmonics model. A contact binary asteroid consists of two components connected to each other, resulting in a highly bifurcated shape. Here, it is represented by a combination of an ellipsoid and a sphere. The gravitational field of this configuration is for the first time expanded into a spherical harmonics model up to degree and order 8. Compared with the exact potential, the truncation at degree and order 4 is found to introduce an error of less than 10 % at the circumscribing sphere and less than 1 % at a distance of the double of the reference radius. The Hamiltonian taking into account harmonics up to degree and order 4 is developed. After double averaging of this Hamiltonian, the model is reduced to include zonal harmonics only and frozen orbits are obtained. The tesseral terms are found to introduce significant variations on the frozen orbits and distort the frozen situation. Applying the method of Poincaré sections, phase space structures of the single-averaged model are generated for different energy levels and rotation rates of the asteroid, from which the dynamics driven by the 4×4 harmonics model is identified and POs are found. It is found that the disturbing effect of the highly irregular gravitational field on orbital motion is weakened around the polar region, and also for an asteroid with a fast rotation rate. Starting with initial conditions from this averaged model, families of exact POs in the original non-averaged system are obtained employing a numerical search method and a continuation technique. Some of these POs are stable and are candidates for future missions.