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The scenario is that an asteroid has been found and converted into a travelling interstellar space colony. Using some undefined future sci-fi tech, the occupants of the colony have increased gravity on the surface to roughly equal the gravity of earth.

What effects would this have on the asteroid? Would it crumble to dust? Reform into a compact sphere? Would anything happen?

I would prefer not to define the means of increasing gravity (mainly because I don't know them). Suffice it to say that there is probably some large machinery embedded in the center generating a sphere of artificial gravity somehow, or perhaps simply radiating gravity outwards. I would imagine that the size and shape of the asteroid would be a large factor though, so use Eros for any necessary calculations. Disregard for the moment how equal gravity would be achieved across such an uneven surface.

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Parts of it may collapse inwards a bit, if they were only held together very tenuously. Overall the effect would be rather pleasant, smoothing a surface that otherwise is likely extremely sharp and irregular.

In fact, you may way to have people go around and pound down the surface a bit, as walking on it would probably be akin to walking in a field covered in large glass shards. Dangerous for the feet, and even more dangerous if you need to keep your space suit contained.

Note that if you choose to give the asteroid some type of warm atmosphere as well, that would have a huge (and possibly destabilizing) effect on the asteroid.

Update 1

Thinking about this a bit more, I think you might WANT an asteroid that has a noticeable amount of frozen water (and/or other liquids/gasses that solidify at deep space temperatures) in it. If we assume that your gravity generator is in a sufficiently shielded capsule in the middle, once you add in your atmosphere (however this occurs) the asteroid would be ripped violently into pieces - and that would be desirable. Specifically that process could be used to accelerate the decomposition of the sharp rocky parts of the asteroid, which would probably have quite a time escaping a body with the same gravity as earth. Sure it would fire off like a rocket, but it takes a REALLY powerful rocket to escape Earth's atmosphere and gravity. After a waiting period gravity would settle things out and I would expect that, on average, you would have fewer large sharp pieces.

You would probably end up with some significant sinkholes-in-waiting, but that's likely to occur naturally anyway. To counter-balance that, if you were to increase the gravity of the asteroid SIGNIFICANTLY during the process you would both decrease your wait period between explosion and settling AND decrease the number of unstable/thin-shelled holes in the resulting body.

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  • $\begingroup$ Atmosphere is the next question. :) Thanks for the answer! $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Sep 13 '16 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ Why would an atmosphere be bad? $\endgroup$ – Ross Sep 13 '16 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ If the comet is made up of a significant amount of ice, that's all going to melt. If it's been in extreme subzero temperatures and a warm, habitable environment is introduced immediately, a lot of it is going to sublimate - probably explosively. Imagine you were on a large rocky body and suddenly a fourth of it burst into steam, propelling rocky shrapnel and dust everywhere. The entire asteroid may well crumble apart as a result. edit Note though that you can have non-icy asteroids as well that are just dust and metal, so you can certainly manufacture an environment that would be "ok". $\endgroup$ – GrinningX Sep 13 '16 at 20:10

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