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Numerical Investigations of Kuiper Belt Binaries

Numerical Investigations of Kuiper Belt Binaries

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06/15/2009

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Numerical Investigations of Kuiper Belt Binaries.
R. C. Nazzario and T. W. HydeCenter for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798-7310, USA,Truell_Hyde@Baylor.edu/ phone: 254-710-3763
Introduction:
Observations of the Kuiper Beltindicate that a larger than expected percentage of KBO’s (approximately 8 out of 500) are in binary pairs. The formation and survival of such objects presents a conundrum [1]. Two competing theorieshave been postulated to try to solve this problem.One entails the physical collision of bodies [2] whilethe other utilizes dynamical friction or a third body todissipate excess momentum and energy from thesystem [3]. Although in general known binaries tendto differ significantly in mass, such as seen in theEarth-Moon or asteroid binary systems [4], Kuiper  binaries discovered to date tend to instead be of similar size [5, 6]. This paper investigates thestability, development and lifetimes for Kuiper Belt binaries by tracking their orbital dynamics andsubsequent evolution. Section two details thenumerical model while Section three discusses theinitial conditions. Finally, in Section four the resultsare discussed with Section five containing theconclusions.
Numerical Model:
The numerical methodemployed in this work is a 5
th
order Runga-Kuttaalgorithm [7] based on the Butcher’s scheme [8]. Afixed time step of two days was used in order toreduce truncation and round-off errors while stillyielding reasonable CPU run times over a simulation period of 1000 years. The forces considered includethe gravitational attraction of the Sun, the sevenmajor planets (Venus through Neptune) and all other KBO’s with the corresponding accelerations due tothese forces given by Eq. (1).
v
a
i
=
"
GM 
Sun
r
2
ˆ
r
"
Gm
 j 
r
ij 
2
ˆ
r
ij  j 
=
1
i
#
 j n
$
i
=
1
n
$
 (1)Particles are considered removed from the systemwhen they venture beyond 100 AU or enter thesphere of influence (SOI) of one of the seven major  planets. The SOI is defined as the distance from thesecondary attractor, where bodies will interact withone another as opposed to being primarily acted upon by the Sun. This is given by Eq. (2),
r
SOI 
"
Secondary
 M 
Pr 
imary
#
 
$
 
%
 
%
 
&
 
'
 
(
 
(
 
2/5
r
(2)where M
Secondary
is the mass of the planet, M
Primary
isthe mass of the Sun, and r is the distance of separation between the primary and secondary bodies. Collisions between objects are allowed as isany subsequent KBO size change.
Initial Conditions:
The Kuiper Belt is dividedinto three distinct populations: the classic Kuiper BeltObjects, the resonant KBO’s, and the scatteredKBO’s. These simulations are representative of theclassic Kuiper Belt population (containing 50% of allKBO’s) where KBO orbits lie in the ecliptic planeand eccentricities are generally less than 0.2 [4]. Thisspecific KBO population has a size distribution for which the number density of 100 km particles is amaximum [5]. Therefore, a radius of 100 km waschosen as the radius for all simulated KBO’s. A meandensity of 3.5 g/cm
3
was assumed (correspondingroughly to dirty water ice) yielding individual KBOmasses of 1.47x10
19
kg.A total of 4000 KBO’s were initially arranged as2000 binary pairs randomly distributed between 30and 35 AU. These 2000 binary pairs were dividedinto 10 sets of 200 and assigned orbital eccentricities between 0.0 to 0.9 in steps of 0.1. Each pair had their initial position (and hence velocity) randomizedabout their center of mass with the center of massthen given the velocity it would have had were it in acircular orbit about the Sun. Figure 1 shows thisinitial particle distribution.
 
Results:
Once established, binaries were found to be remarkably stable and were only rarely disruptedduring their subsequent evolution. Of the 2000 pairssimulated, 140 collided with Neptune during the1000-year simulation period with no collisionsoccurring between KBO’s. Four quaternary systemsand two tertiary systems were formed with 150 yearsleft in the simulation, remaining stable throughout theremainder of the 1000-year time period. It appearsthe initial eccentricity of the KBO binary may be afactor in determining whether such higher-levelsystems will form since initial eccentricities below0.4 resulted in five of the six multi-particle systemsdiscovered. It is also interesting to note thatthroughout the 1000-year simulation, zero KBO’swere ejected into the Oort cloud.The final positions for all KBO’s tracked in thissimulation are shown in Fig. 2 with their averageeccentricity and their minimum and maximumeccentricities given in Table 1. As can be seen, KBO binaries having smaller initial eccentricities generallysuffer larger perturbations than do those with initiallylarger eccentricities.
Conclusions:
Presently, there are only 8 knownKBO binaries in the Kuiper Belt constitutingapproximately 4% of the whole. These simulations

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