Bennu and Ryugu: diamonds in the sky

Tapan Sabuwala, Pinaki Chakraborty, Troy Shinbrot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Rapidly spinning and loosely aggregated asteroids appear to take on diamond-shaped profiles, with elevated poles as well as equators. The evolutionary processes that form these characteristic shapes remain a matter of debate. In this paper, we propose a novel model, based on debris accretion, to explain these diamond-shaped profiles. We derive an analytic expression for the shapes of such rapidly spinning rubble piles based on the principle that as rubble is deposited it assumes a critical angle of repose. We show that this expression correctly reproduces diamond shaped profiles. We also conduct granular simulations of debris deposition and show that simulated shapes are in striking accord with both observations and analytical results. Our results suggest that non-uniform debris accumulation, which is overlooked in current models, may play a cardinal role in the formation of diamond-shaped asteroids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number81
JournalGranular Matter
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


  • Discrete element method
  • Granular material
  • Rotating asteroids
  • Rubble pile asteroids


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