Numerical simulations of catastrophic disruption: recent results

W. Benz, E. Asphaug, E. V. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Numerical simulations have been used to study high velocity two-body impacts. In this paper a two-dimensional Lagrangian finite difference hydrocode and a three-dimensional smooth particle hydrocode (SPH) are described and initial results reported. The 2D hydrocode has successfully reproduced both the fragment size distribution and the mean fragment velocities from laboratory impact experiments using basalt and cement mortar. Further, the hydrocode calculations have determined that the energy needed to fracture a body has a much stronger dependence on target size than predicted from most scaling theories. In addition, velocity distributions obtained (using homogeneous targets at impact velocities around 2 km s-1) indicate that mean ejecta speeds resulting from large-body collisions do not generally exceed escape velocities. The SPH model provides a fully three-dimensional framework for studying impacts, so that phenomena such as oblique collisions or impacts into non-spherical targets may be studied. The gridless code allows for arbitrary levels of distortion, and is hence appropriate for modeling the large-scale deformations which accompany most impact events. Because fragments are modeled explicitly, greater numerical accuracy is achieved in the regions of large fragments than with the purely statistical approach of the 2D model. Of course, this accuracy comes at the expense of significantly greater computational requirements. These codes can be, and have been, used to make specific predictions about particular objects in our solar system. But more significantly, they allow us to explore a broad range of collisional events. Certain parameters (size, time) can be studied only over a very restricted range within the laboratory; other parameters (initial spin, low gravity, exotic structure or composition) are difficult to study at all experimentally. The outcomes of numerical simulations lead to a more general and accurate understanding of impacts in their many forms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1053-1066
Number of pages14
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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