Accretion of the asteroids: Implications for their thermal evolution

S. J. Weidenschilling

Meteoritics & Planetary Science
First Published: 3 March 2019


“Thermal models of asteroids generally assume that they accreted either instantaneously or over an extended interval with a prescribed growth rate. It is conventionally assumed that the onset of accretion of chondrite parent bodies was delayed until a substantial fraction of the initial 26Al had decayed. However, this interval is not consistent with the early melting, and differentiation of parent bodies of iron meteorites. Formation time scales are tested by dynamical simulations of accretion from small primary planetesimals. Gravitational accretion yields rapid runaway growth of large planetary embryos until most smaller bodies are depleted. In a given simulation, all asteroid‐sized bodies have comparable growth times, regardless of size. For plausible parameters, growth times are shorter than the lifetime of 26Al, consistent with thermal models that assume instantaneous accretion. Rapid growth after planetesimal formation is consistent with differentiation of parent bodies of iron meteorites, but not with the assumed delay in formation of chondritic bodies. After the initial growth stage, there is an interval of slower evolution until the belt is stirred and the embryos are dynamically removed. During this interval, a fraction of asteroid‐sized bodies experience large accretional impacts, allowing bodies of the same final size to have very different histories of radius versus time. Accretion from small primary planetesimals leaves some fraction of material in bodies small enough to preserve CAIs while avoiding heating by 26Al. Unheated material can be a significant fraction of the mass that remains after large embryos are removed from the Main Belt.”