Results 1 - 10 of 11
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[en] This paper presents the results of collisional evolution calculations for the Kuiper Belt starting from an initial size distribution similar to that produced by accretion simulations of that region-a steep power-law large object size distribution that breaks to a shallower slope at r ∼ 1-2 km, with collisional equilibrium achieved for objects r ∼< 0.5 km. We find that the break from the steep large object power law causes a divot, or depletion of objects at r ∼ 10-20 km, which, in turn, greatly reduces the disruption rate of objects with r ∼> 25-50 km, preserving the steep power-law behavior for objects at this size. Our calculations demonstrate that the roll-over observed in the Kuiper Belt size distribution is naturally explained as an edge of a divot in the size distribution; the radius at which the size distribution transitions away from the power law, and the shape of the divot from our simulations are consistent with the size of the observed roll-over, and size distribution for smaller bodies. Both the kink radius and the radius of the divot center depend on the strength scaling law in the gravity regime for Kuiper Belt objects. These simulations suggest that the sky density of r ∼ 1 km objects is ∼106-107 objects per square degree. A detection of the divot in the size distribution would provide a measure of the strength of large Kuiper Belt objects, and constrain the shape of the size distribution at the end of accretion in the Kuiper Belt.
[en] The cold classical population of the Kuiper Belt exhibits a wide variety of unique physical characteristics, which collectively suggest that its dynamical coherence has been maintained throughout the solar system's lifetime. Simultaneously, the retention of the cold population's relatively unexcited orbital state has remained a mystery, especially in the context of a solar system formation model, that is driven by a transient period of instability, where Neptune is temporarily eccentric. Here, we show that the cold belt can survive the instability, and its dynamical structure can be reproduced. We develop a simple analytical model for secular excitation of cold Kuiper Belt objects and show that comparatively fast apsidal precession and nodal recession of Neptune, during the eccentric phase, are essential for preservation of an unexcited state in the cold classical region. Subsequently, we confirm our results with self-consistent N-body simulations. We further show that contamination of the hot classical and scattered populations by objects of similar nature to that of cold classicals has been instrumental in shaping the vast physical diversity inherent to the Kuiper Belt.
[en] Here we report Wide-Field Planetary Camera 2 observations of the Quaoar-Weywot Kuiper Belt binary. From these observations, we find that Weywot is on an elliptical orbit with an eccentricity of 0.14 ± 0.04, a period of 12.438 ± 0.005 days, and a semimajor axis of 1.45 ± 0.08 x 104 km. The orbit reveals a surprisingly high-Quaoar-Weywot system mass of (1.6 ± 0.3) x 1021 kg. Using the surface properties of the Uranian and Neptunian satellites as a proxy for Quaoar's surface, we reanalyze the size estimate from Brown and Trujillo. We find, from a mean of available published size estimates, a diameter for Quaoar of 890 ± 70 km. We find Quaoar's density to be ρ = 4.2 ± 1.3gcm-3, possibly the highest density in the Kuiper Belt.
[en] We present the first results of the Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 Test of Surfaces in the Outer Solar System. The purpose of this survey was to measure the surface properties of a large number of Kuiper Belt objects and attempt to infer compositional and dynamical correlations. We find that the Centaurs and the low-perihelion scattered disk and resonant objects exhibit virtually identical bifurcated optical color distributions and make up two well-defined groups of objects. Both groups have highly correlated optical and NIR colors that are well described by a pair of two-component mixture models that have different red components but share a common neutral component. The small, H606 ∼> 5.6 high-perihelion excited objects are entirely consistent with being drawn from the two branches of the mixing model, suggesting that the color bifurcation of the Centaurs is apparent in all small excited objects. On the other hand, objects larger than H606 ∼ 5.6 are not consistent with the mixing model, suggesting some evolutionary process avoided by the smaller objects. The existence of a bifurcation amongst all excited populations argues that the two separate classes of object existed in the primordial disk before the excited Kuiper Belt was populated. The cold classical objects exhibit a different type of surface that has colors that are consistent with being drawn from the red branch of the mixing model, but with much higher albedos.
[en] We explore the brightness distribution of the largest and brightest (m(R) < 22) Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). We construct a luminosity function of the dynamically excited or hot Kuiper Belt (orbits with inclinations >5°) from the very brightest to m(R) = 23. We find for m(R) ≲ 23, a single slope appears to describe the luminosity function. We estimate that ∼12 KBOs brighter than m(R) ∼ 19.5 are present in the Kuiper Belt today. With nine bodies already discovered this suggests that the inventory of bright KBOs is nearly complete.
[en] Here, we present additional photometry of targets observed as part of the Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) Test of Surfaces in the Outer Solar System. Twelve targets were re-observed with the WFC3 in the optical and NIR wavebands designed to complement those used during the first visit. Additionally, all of the observations originally presented by Fraser and Brown were reanalyzed through the same updated photometry pipeline. A re-analysis of the optical and NIR color distribution reveals a bifurcated optical color distribution and only two identifiable spectral classes, each of which occupies a broad range of colors and has correlated optical and NIR colors, in agreement with our previous findings. We report the detection of significant spectral variations on five targets which cannot be attributed to photometry errors, cosmic rays, point-spread function or sensitivity variations, or other image artifacts capable of explaining the magnitude of the variation. The spectrally variable objects are found to have a broad range of dynamical classes and absolute magnitudes, exhibit a broad range of apparent magnitude variations, and are found in both compositional classes. The spectrally variable objects with sufficiently accurate colors for spectral classification maintain their membership, belonging to the same class at both epochs. 2005 TV189 exhibits a sufficiently broad difference in color at the two epochs that span the full range of colors of the neutral class. This strongly argues that the neutral class is one single class with a broad range of colors, rather than the combination of multiple overlapping classes
[en] It has been suggested that centaurs may lose their red surfaces and become bluer due to the onset of cometary activity, but the way in which cometary outbursts affect the surface composition and albedo of active centaurs is poorly understood. We obtained consistent visual-near-infrared (VNIR) reflectance spectra of the sporadically active centaur 174P/Echeclus during a period of inactivity in 2014 and six weeks after its outburst in 2016 to see if activity had observably changed the surface properties of the nucleus. We observed no change in the surface reflectance properties of Echeclus following the outburst compared to before, indicating that, in this case, any surface changes due to cometary activity were not sufficiently large to be observable from Earth. Our spectra and post-outburst imaging have revealed, however, that the remaining dust coma is not only blue compared to Echeclus, but also bluer than solar, with a spectral gradient of −7.7 ± 0.6% per 0.1 μm measured through the wavelength range that appears to continue up to before becoming neutral. We conclude that the blue visual color of the dust is likely not a scattering effect, and instead may be indicative of the dust’s carbon-rich composition. Deposition of such blue, carbon-rich, comatic dust onto a red active centaur may be a mechanism by which its surface color could be neutralized.
[en] Here we present high cadence photometry taken by the Acquisition Camera on Gemini South, of a close passage by the ∼540 km radius Kuiper belt object, (50000) Quaoar, of a r' = 20.2 background star. Observations before and after the event show that the apparent impact parameter of the event was 0.''019 ± 0.''004, corresponding to a close approach of 580 ± 120 km to the center of Quaoar. No signatures of occultation by either Quaoar's limb or its potential atmosphere are detectable in the relative photometry of Quaoar and the target star, which were unresolved during closest approach. From this photometry we are able to put constraints on any potential atmosphere Quaoar might have. Using a Markov chain Monte Carlo and likelihood approach, we place pressure upper limits on sublimation supported, isothermal atmospheres of pure N2, CO, and CH4. For N2 and CO, the upper limit surface pressures are 1 and 0.7 μbar, respectively. The surface temperature required for such low sublimation pressures is ∼33 K, much lower than Quaoar's mean temperature of ∼44 K measured by others. We conclude that Quaoar cannot have an isothermal N2 or CO atmosphere. We cannot eliminate the possibility of a CH4 atmosphere, but place upper surface pressure and mean temperature limits of ∼138 nbar and ∼44 K, respectively
[en] Here we measure the absolute magnitude distributions (H-distribution) of the dynamically excited and quiescent (hot and cold) Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), and test if they share the same H-distribution as the Jupiter Trojans. From a compilation of all useable ecliptic surveys, we find that the KBO H-distributions are well described by broken power laws. The cold population has a bright-end slope, α1=1.5−0.2+0.4, and break magnitude, HB=6.9−0.2+0.1 (r'-band). The hot population has a shallower bright-end slope of, α1=0.87−0.2+0.07, and break magnitude HB=7.7−0.5+1.0. Both populations share similar faint-end slopes of α2 ∼ 0.2. We estimate the masses of the hot and cold populations are ∼0.01 and ∼3 × 10–4 M ⊕. The broken power-law fit to the Trojan H-distribution has α1 = 1.0 ± 0.2, α2 = 0.36 ± 0.01, and H B = 8.3. The Kolmogorov-Smirnov test reveals that the probability that the Trojans and cold KBOs share the same parent H-distribution is less than 1 in 1000. When the bimodal albedo distribution of the hot objects is accounted for, there is no evidence that the H-distributions of the Trojans and hot KBOs differ. Our findings are in agreement with the predictions of the Nice model in terms of both mass and H-distribution of the hot and Trojan populations. Wide-field survey data suggest that the brightest few hot objects, with Hr′≲3, do not fall on the steep power-law slope of fainter hot objects. Under the standard hierarchical model of planetesimal formation, it is difficult to account for the similar break diameters of the hot and cold populations given the low mass of the cold belt.
[en] Several different classes of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) have been identified based on their optical and near-infrared colors. As part of the Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (Col-OSSOS), we have obtained g-, r-, and z-band photometry of 26 TNOs using Subaru and Gemini Observatories. Previous color surveys have not utilized z-band reflectance, and the inclusion of this band reveals significant surface reflectance variations between sub-populations. The colors of TNOs in g − r and r − z show obvious structure, and appear consistent with the previously measured bi-modality in g − r. The distribution of colors of the two dynamically excited surface types can be modeled using the two-component mixing models from Fraser and Brown. With the combination of g − r and r − z, the dynamically excited classes can be separated cleanly into red and neutral surface classes. In g − r and r − z, the two dynamically excited surface groups are also clearly distinct from the cold classical TNO surfaces, which are red, with and r − z ≲ 0.6, while all dynamically excited objects with similar g − r colors exhibit redder r − z colors. The z-band photometry makes it possible for the first time to differentiate the red excited TNO surfaces from the red cold classical TNO surfaces. The discovery of different r − z colors for these cold classical TNOs makes it possible to search for cold classical surfaces in other regions of the Kuiper Belt and to completely separate cold classical TNOs from the dynamically excited population, which overlaps in orbital parameter space.