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[en] The origin of the high inclination of Uranus' spin-axis (Uranus' obliquity) is one of the great unanswered questions about the solar system. Giant planets are believed to form with nearly zero obliquity, and it has been shown that the present behavior of Uranus' spin is essentially stable. Several attempts were made in order to solve this problem. Here we report numerical simulations showing that Uranus' axis can be tilted during the planetary migration, without the need of a giant impact, provided that the planet had an additional satellite and a temporary large inclination. This might have happened during the giant planet instability phase described in the Nice model. In our scenario, the satellite is ejected after the tilt by a close encounter at the end of the migration. This model can both explain Uranus' large obliquity and bring new constraints on the planet orbital evolution.
[en] The field of exoplanetary science has seen a dramatic improvement in sensitivity to terrestrial planets over recent years. Such discoveries have been a key feature of results from the Kepler mission which utilizes the transit method to determine the size of the planet. These discoveries have resulted in a corresponding interest in the topic of the Habitable Zone and the search for potential Earth analogs. Within the solar system, there is a clear dichotomy between Venus and Earth in terms of atmospheric evolution, likely the result of the large difference (approximately a factor of two) in incident flux from the Sun. Since Venus is 95% of the Earth's radius in size, it is impossible to distinguish between these two planets based only on size. In this Letter we discuss planetary insolation in the context of atmospheric erosion and runaway greenhouse limits for planets similar to Venus. We define a ''Venus Zone'' in which the planet is more likely to be a Venus analog rather than an Earth analog. We identify 43 potential Venus analogs with an occurrence rate (η♀) of 0.32−0.07+0.05 and 0.45−0.09+0.06 for M dwarfs and GK dwarfs, respectively
[en] We describe the discovery of a bright, young Kuiper belt–like debris disk around HD 115600, a ∼1.4–1.5 M_⊙, ∼15 Myr old member of the Sco–Cen OB Association. Our H-band coronagraphy/integral field spectroscopy from the Gemini Planet Imager shows the ring has a (luminosity-scaled) semimajor axis of (∼22 AU) ∼ 48 AU, similar to the current Kuiper belt. The disk appears to have neutral-scattering dust, is eccentric (e ∼ 0.1–0.2), and could be sculpted by analogs to the outer solar system planets. Spectroscopy of the disk ansae reveal a slightly blue to gray disk color, consistent with major Kuiper belt chemical constituents, where water ice is a very plausible dominant constituent. Besides being the first object discovered with the next generation of extreme adaptive optics systems (i.e., SCExAO, GPI, SPHERE), HD 115600's debris ring and planetary system provide a key reference point for the early evolution of the solar system, the structure, and composition of the Kuiper belt and the interaction between debris disks and planets
[en] The metal content of asteroids is of great interest, not only for theories of their origins and the evolution of the solar system but, in the case of near-Earth objects (NEOs), also for impact mitigation planning and endeavors in the field of planetary resources. However, since the reflection spectra of metallic asteroids are largely featureless, it is difficult to identify them and relatively few are known. We show how data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)/NEOWISE thermal-infrared survey and similar surveys, fitted with a simple thermal model, can reveal objects likely to be metal rich. We provide a list of candidate metal-rich NEOs. Our results imply that future infrared surveys with the appropriate instrumentation could discover many more metal-rich asteroids, providing valuable data for assessment of the impact hazard and the potential of NEOs as reservoirs of vital materials for future interplanetary space activities and, eventually perhaps, for use on Earth
[en] With the use of long-term numerical simulations, we study the evolution and orbital behavior of cometary nuclei in cold Kuiper belt–like debris disks under the gravitational influence of dwarf planets (DPs); we carry out these simulations with and without the presence of a Neptune-like giant planet. This exploratory study shows that in the absence of a giant planet, 10 DPs are enough to induce strong radial and vertical heating on the orbits of belt particles. On the other hand, the presence of a giant planet close to the debris disk, acts as a stability agent reducing the radial and vertical heating. With enough DPs, even in the presence of a Neptune-like giant planet some radial heating remains; this heating grows steadily, re-filling resonances otherwise empty of cometary nuclei. Specifically for the solar system, this secular process seems to be able to provide material that, through resonant chaotic diffusion, increase the rate of new comets spiraling into the inner planetary system, but only if more than the ∼10 known DP sized objects exist in the trans-Neptunian region
[en] It is believed that 26Al, a short-lived (t1/2 = 0.73 Ma) and now extinct radionuclide, was uniformly distributed in the nascent solar system (SS) with the initial 26Al/27Al ratio of ∼5.2 x 10-5, suggesting an external, stellar origin rather than local, solar source. However, the stellar source of 26Al and the manner in which it was injected into the SS remain controversial: the 26Al could have been produced by an asymptotic giant branch star, a supernova, or a Wolf-Rayet star and injected either into the protosolar molecular cloud, protosolar cloud core, or protoplanetary disk. Corundum (Al2O3) is predicted to be the first condensate from a cooling gas of solar composition. Here we show that micron-sized corundum condensates from 16O-rich (Δ17O ∼ -25 per mille ) gas of solar composition recorded heterogeneous distribution of 26Al at the birth of the SS: the inferred initial 26Al/27Al ratio ranges from ∼6.5x10-5 to <2x10-6; 52% of corundum grains measured are 26Al-poor. Abundant 26Al-poor, 16O-rich refractory objects include grossite- and hibonite-rich calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs) in CH (high metal abundance and high iron concentration) chondrites, platy hibonite crystals in CM (Mighei-like) chondrites, and CAIs with fractionation and unidentified nuclear effects CAIs chondrites. Considering the apparently early and short duration (<0.3 Ma) of condensation of refractory 16O-rich solids in the SS, we infer that 26Al was injected into the collapsing protosolar molecular cloud and later homogenized in the protoplanetary disk. The apparent lack of correlation between 26Al abundance and O-isotope composition of corundum grains constrains the stellar source of 26Al in the SS.
[en] Far-infrared Herschel images of the ε Eridani system, seen at a fifth of the Sun's present age, resolve two belts of debris emission. Fits to the 160 μm PACS image yield radial spans for these belts of 12-16 and 54-68 AU. The south end of the outer belt is ≈10% brighter than the north end in the PACS+SPIRE images at 160, 250, and 350 μm, indicating a pericenter glow attributable to a planet ''c''. From this asymmetry and an upper bound on the offset of the belt center, this second planet should be mildly eccentric (ec ≈ 0.03-0.3). Compared to the asteroid and Kuiper Belts of the young Sun, the ε Eri belts are intermediate in brightness and more similar to each other, with up to 20 km sized collisional fragments in the inner belt totaling ≈5% of an Earth mass. This reservoir may feed the hot dust close to the star and could send many impactors through the Habitable Zone, especially if it is being perturbed by the suspected planet ε Eri b, at semi-major axis ≈3 AU
[en] Understanding the evolution of magnetic flux in the heliosphere remains an unresolved issue. The current solar minimum between cycles 23 and 24 is anomalously long, which gives rare insight into the long-term evolution of heliospheric magnetic flux when the coronal mass ejection (CME) rate and the flux emergence rate from CMEs were very low. The precipitous drop of heliospheric magnetic flux to levels lower than have ever been observed directly shows that there may be a persistent loss of open magnetic flux through disconnection, the reconnection between opposite polarity heliospheric magnetic field lines relatively near the Sun (beneath the Alfven point). Here, we develop a model for the levels of magnetic flux in the inner heliosphere balancing new flux injected by CMEs, flux lost through disconnection, and closed flux lost through interchange reconnection near the Sun. This magnetic flux balance is a fundamental property that regulates the plasma and radiation environment of our solar system.
[en] Impact basins identified by Mariner 10 and Messenger flyby images provide us with a fossilized record of the impactor flux of asteroids on Mercury during the last stages of the early solar system. The distribution of these basins is not uniform across the surface and is consistent with a primordial synchronous rotation. By analyzing the size of the impacts, we derive a simple collisional model coherent with the observations. When combining it with the secular evolution of the spin of Mercury, we are able to reproduce the present 3/2 spin-orbit resonance (∼50% of chances), as well as a primordial synchronous rotation. This result is robust with respect to variations in the dissipation and collisional models, or in the initial spin state of the planet.
[en] One of the main evolutionary stages of planet formation is the dynamical evolution of planetesimal disks. These disks are thought to evolve through gravitational encounters and physical collisions between single planetesimals. In recent years, many binary planetesimals (BPs) have been observed in the solar system, indicating that the binarity of planetesimals is high. However, current studies of planetesimal disk formation and evolution do not account for the role of binaries. Here, we point out that gravitational encounters of BPs can have an important role in the evolution of planetesimal disks. BPs catalyze close encounters between planetesimals and can strongly enhance their collision rate. Binaries may also serve as an additional heating source of the planetesimal disk, through the exchange of the binaries gravitational potential energy into the kinetic energy of planetesimals in the disk.