Ultra-wide Trans-Neptunian Binaries: tracers of the outer solar system's history.

Date

2011-07-07

Authors

Parker, Alex Harrison

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Abstract

Ultra-wide Trans-Neptunian Binaries (TNBs) are extremely sensitive to perturbation, and therefore make excellent probes of the past and present dynamical environment of the outer Solar System. Using data gathered from a host of facilities we have determined the mutual orbits for a sample of seven wide TNBs whose periods exceed one year. This characterized sample provides us with new information about the probable formation scenarios of TNBs, and has significant implications for the early dynamical and collisional history of the Kuiper Belt. We show that these wide binaries have short collisional lifetimes, and use them to produce a new estimate of the number of small (~1 km) objects in the Kuiper Belt. Additionally, these systems are susceptible to tidal disruption, and we show that it is unlikely that they were ever subjected to a period of close encounters with the giant planets. We find that the current properties of these ultra-wide Trans-Neptunian Binaries suggest that planetesimal growth in the Cold Classical Kuiper Belt did not occur through slow hierarchical accretion, but rather through rapid gravitational collapse.

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Keywords

Astronomy, Solar System, Kuiper Belt, Celestial Dynamics, Satellites and Moons

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