A possible mechanism to explain the lack of binary asteroids among the Plutinos

A. Compère, D. Farrelly, Anne Lemaitre, D. Hestroffer

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Context. Binary asteroids are common in the solar system, including in the Kuiper belt. However, there seems to be a marked disparity between the binary populations in the classical part of the Kuiper belt and the part of the belt in the 3:2 resonance with Neptune - i.e., the region inhabited by the Plutinos. In particular, binary Plutinos are extremely rare. Aims. We study the impact of the 3:2 resonance on the formation of Kuiper belt binaries, according to the Nice model, in order to explain such phenomenon. Methods. Numerical simulations are performed within the 2 + 2 body approximation (Sun/Neptune + binary partners). The MEGNO chaos indicator is used to map out regular and chaotic regions of phase space. Residence times of test (binary) particles within the Hill sphere are compared inside and outside of the 3:2 resonance. The effect of increasing the heliocentric eccentricity of the centre of mass of the binary system is studied. This is done because mean-motion resonances between a planet and an asteroid usually have the effect of increasing the eccentricity of the asteroid. Results. The stable zones in the MEGNO maps are mainly disrupted in the resonant, eccentric case: the number of binary asteroids created in this case is significantly lower than outside the 3:2 resonance. Conclusions. In the 2 + 2 body approximation, the pumping of the eccentricity of the centre of mass of a potential binary destabilises the formation of binaries. This may be a factor in explaining the scarcity of binaries in the Plutino population.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA4
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2013


  • Celestial mechanics
  • Kuiper belt: general


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