The fate of debris in the Pluto-Charon system

Rachel A. Smullen, Kaitlin M. Kratter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Pluto-Charon system has come into sharper focus following the flyby of New Horizons. We use N-body simulations to probe the unique dynamical history of this binary dwarf planet system. We follow the evolution of the debris disc that might have formed during the Charon-forming giant impact. First, we note that in situ formation of the four circumbinary moons is extremely difficult if Charon undergoes eccentric tidal evolution. We track collisions of disc debris with Charon, estimating that hundreds to hundreds of thousands of visible craters might arise from 0.3-5 km radius bodies. New Horizons data suggesting a dearth of these small craters may place constraints on the disc properties. While tidal heating will erase some of the cratering history, both tidal and radiogenic heating may also make it possible to differentiate disc debris craters from Kuiper belt object craters. We also track the debris ejected from the Pluto-Charon system into the Solar system; while most of this debris is ultimately lost from the Solar system, a few tens of 10-30 km radius bodies could survive as a Pluto-Charon collisional family. Most are plutinos in the 3:2 resonance with Neptune, while a small number populate nearby resonances. We show that migration of the giant planets early in the Solar system's history would not destroy this collisional family. Finally, we suggest that identification of such a family would likely need to be based on composition as they show minimal clustering in relevant orbital parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4480-4491
Number of pages12
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume466
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2017

Keywords

  • Kuiper belt objects: individual: Pluto
  • Planet-disc interactions
  • Planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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