An asteroid family is a group of asteroids with similar orbits and spectra that was produced by a collisional breakup of a large parent body. To identify asteroid families, researchers look for clusters of asteroid positions in the space of proper orbital elements. These elements, being more constant over time than osculating orbital elements, provide a dynamical criterion of whether a group of bodies has a common ancestor. More than fifty asteroid families have been identified to date. Their analysis produced several important insights into the physics of large scale collisions, dynamical processes affecting small bodies in the Solar System, and surface and interior properties of asteroids.
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