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Title: On the Existence of Regular and Irregular Outer Moons Orbiting the Pluto–Charon System

Abstract

The dwarf planet Pluto is known to host an extended system of five co-planar satellites. Previous studies have explored the formation and evolution of the system in isolation, neglecting perturbative effects by the Sun. Here we show that secular evolution due to the Sun can strongly affect the evolution of outer satellites and rings in the system, if such exist. Although precession due to extended gravitational potential from the inner Pluto–Charon binary quench such secular evolution up to a {sub crit} ∼ 0.0035 au (∼0.09 R {sub Hill} the Hill radius; including all of the currently known satellites), outer orbits can be significantly altered. In particular, we find that co-planar rings and satellites should not exist beyond a {sub crit}; rather, satellites and dust particles in these regions secularly evolve on timescales ranging between 10{sup 4} and 10{sup 6} years, and quasi-periodically change their inclinations and eccentricities through secular evolution (Lidov–Kozai oscillations). Such oscillations can lead to high inclinations and eccentricities, constraining the range where such satellites (and dust particles) can exist without crossing the orbits of the inner satellites or crossing the outer Hill stability range. Outer satellites, if such exist are therefore likely to be irregular satellites, withmore » orbits limited to be non-circular and/or highly inclined. Current observations, including the recent data from the New-Horizons mission explored only inner regions (<0.0012 au) and excluded the existence of additional satellites; however, the irregular satellites discussed here should reside farther, in the yet uncharted regions around Pluto.« less

Authors:
; ;  [1]
  1. Physics Department, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 3200004 (Israel)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22663884
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 836; Journal Issue: 1; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; ASTEROIDS; DETECTION; DUSTS; EVOLUTION; INCLINATION; MOON; OSCILLATIONS; PERIODICITY; PLUTO PLANET; PRECESSION; STABILITY; SUN

Citation Formats

Michaely, Erez, Perets, Hagai B., and Grishin, Evgeni. On the Existence of Regular and Irregular Outer Moons Orbiting the Pluto–Charon System. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/AA52B2.
Michaely, Erez, Perets, Hagai B., & Grishin, Evgeni. On the Existence of Regular and Irregular Outer Moons Orbiting the Pluto–Charon System. United States. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/AA52B2.
Michaely, Erez, Perets, Hagai B., and Grishin, Evgeni. Fri . "On the Existence of Regular and Irregular Outer Moons Orbiting the Pluto–Charon System". United States. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/AA52B2.
@article{osti_22663884,
title = {On the Existence of Regular and Irregular Outer Moons Orbiting the Pluto–Charon System},
author = {Michaely, Erez and Perets, Hagai B. and Grishin, Evgeni},
abstractNote = {The dwarf planet Pluto is known to host an extended system of five co-planar satellites. Previous studies have explored the formation and evolution of the system in isolation, neglecting perturbative effects by the Sun. Here we show that secular evolution due to the Sun can strongly affect the evolution of outer satellites and rings in the system, if such exist. Although precession due to extended gravitational potential from the inner Pluto–Charon binary quench such secular evolution up to a {sub crit} ∼ 0.0035 au (∼0.09 R {sub Hill} the Hill radius; including all of the currently known satellites), outer orbits can be significantly altered. In particular, we find that co-planar rings and satellites should not exist beyond a {sub crit}; rather, satellites and dust particles in these regions secularly evolve on timescales ranging between 10{sup 4} and 10{sup 6} years, and quasi-periodically change their inclinations and eccentricities through secular evolution (Lidov–Kozai oscillations). Such oscillations can lead to high inclinations and eccentricities, constraining the range where such satellites (and dust particles) can exist without crossing the orbits of the inner satellites or crossing the outer Hill stability range. Outer satellites, if such exist are therefore likely to be irregular satellites, with orbits limited to be non-circular and/or highly inclined. Current observations, including the recent data from the New-Horizons mission explored only inner regions (<0.0012 au) and excluded the existence of additional satellites; however, the irregular satellites discussed here should reside farther, in the yet uncharted regions around Pluto.},
doi = {10.3847/1538-4357/AA52B2},
journal = {Astrophysical Journal},
number = 1,
volume = 836,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Feb 10 00:00:00 EST 2017},
month = {Fri Feb 10 00:00:00 EST 2017}
}
  • High-signal-to-noise-ratio observations of the Pluto-Charon system at 25, 60, and 100 microns using IRAS are combined with visual-magnitude and mutual-eclipse constraints to evaluate thermal models of Pluto and Charon. These models are consistent with eclipse observation by Dunbar and Tedesco (1986) but not with Reinsch and Pakull (1987). The most likely model for Charon is the standard asteroid model, typical for the icy Galilean and Saturnian satellites. Charon models with a significant atmosphere can be ruled out. Based on currently available radius and albedo constraints, no significant numerical distinction is possible between Pluto models ranging from isothermal spheres with surfacemore » emissivity between 0.4 and 0.9. Concerns regarding the viability of an emissivity as low as 0.4 favor the higher-emissivity models. The globally uniform surface temperature of Pluto may thus at present be as low as 45 K, with a methane column abundance of 6.7 cm atm. The most likely models are centered on radii of 1180 and 747 km and albedos of 0.47 and 0.26 for Pluto and Charon, respectively. 21 references.« less
  • Impact rates in the Pluto-Charon system are dominated by comets from the proposed Kuiper Belt, 30 to 50 AU from the Sun. Such collisions excite the eccentricity of Charon's orbit, which then decays due to tidal dissipation. Charon's eccentricity approaches a quasi-steady state, which can be used to constrain the total number and mass of comets in the Kuiper Belt. Unfortunately, the current upper limit on Charon's orbital eccentricity must be reduced by more than a factor of ten before useful constraints can be set.
  • A flyby mission to Pluto is proposed. The size, orbit, atmosphere, and surface of Pluto, and the Pluto-Charon system are described. The benefits of a planetary flyby compared to ground observations are discussed in terms of imaging capabilities. Planned payloads include a plasma science package, a UV spectrometer, and a thermal mapper. The advantages of a dual launch to Mars and the need for a Jupiter-Pluto transfer are considered. A diagram of a spacecraft for a flyby study of Pluto is provided.
  • Although Charon seems to have lost its atmosphere and surface volatiles, a lack of heating that would be sufficient to generate melting and consequent separation of the lighter and heavier nonvolatiles has probably resulted in the outer layers' retention of the primordial mix of nonvolatiles. Spectroscopically-determined relative abundances for the Charon surface should accordingly be representative of its entire mass, and thereby constitutes the basis of an understanding of Charon's origin. The study of Charon's exposed nonvolatile ices may ascertain whether the Pluto-Charon system condensed out of the solar nebula directly or from a protoplanetary nebula. 46 references.
  • We present new imaging of the surface of Pluto and Charon obtained during 2002-2003 with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) instrument. Using these data, we construct two-color albedo maps for the surfaces of both Pluto and Charon. Similar mapping techniques are used to re-process HST/Faint Object Camera (FOC) images taken in 1994. The FOC data provide information in the ultraviolet and blue wavelengths that show a marked trend of UV-bright material toward the sunlit pole. The ACS data are taken at two optical wavelengths and show widespread albedo and color variegation on the surface ofmore » Pluto and hint at a latitudinal albedo trend on Charon. The ACS data also provide evidence for a decreasing albedo for Pluto at blue (435 nm) wavelengths, while the green (555 nm) data are consistent with a static surface over the one-year period of data collection. We use the two maps to synthesize a true visual color map of Pluto's surface and investigate trends in color. The mid- to high-latitude region on the sunlit pole is, on average, more neutral in color and generally higher albedo than the rest of the surface. Brighter surfaces also tend to be more neutral in color and show minimal color variations. The darker regions show considerable color diversity arguing that there must be a range of compositional units in the dark regions. Color variations are weak when sorted by longitude. These data are also used to constrain astrometric corrections that enable more accurate orbit fitting, both for the heliocentric orbit of the barycenter and the orbit of Pluto and Charon about their barycenter.« less