Sunlight rolled the rocks on an asteroid

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Scientists studying the rounded rocks on the surface of the asteroid 25143 Itokawa, photographed by the Japanese probe Hayabusa, have concluded that sunlight combined with the asteroid’s tiny gravity caused them move and thus erode themselves.

As sunlight bounced off the orbiting boulders, photons provided a tiny push. As they radiated back outward as heat, they triggered a recoil effect that added a gentle spin. Over time, these slowly spinning boulders bumped into each other with enough force to wear their edges into smooth surfaces.

Warning! This is only a model, and thus could very well be wrong. It is reasonable however and worth considering as a factor in studying the early formation history of asteroids.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *