AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 70. Planets, Comets and Beyond
Display, Thursday, June 7, 2001, 9:20am-4:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[70.05] Why we need detailed visible-range spectral data on Kuiper belt objects?

V. V. Busarev (Sternberg State Astronomical Institute, Moscow University)

Our understanding of Kuiper belt objects (KBOs)’ nature may be based on two general scenarios of their origin. First, they could result from early accretional phases of the Solar System ``in situ". Then they are probably the most primitive and unprocessed bodies among known and should be mostly icy, with a very low content of silicate component. Second, a considerable portion of them (if not a majority) might have been thrown by Jupiter and other giant planets from their zones of accumulation. If so, they could include much more silicates (possibly up to 40%). To check the suppositions we need high-resolution visible and near-infrared spectral data on Centaurs (as possible “fugitives” from the Kuiper belt) and the KBOs. Because of faintness of the objects their physicochemical properties remain still little-known. Visible-range observations of the bodies by means of a spacecraft approaching to the belt could much help in solving the problem.

Visible-infrared spectrophotometric observations of the objects showed a considerable diversity among them (Jewitt D. & J. Luu, 1998, Astron. J., 115, 1667-1670). It hints at a diversity in content of their matter. Spectral features of ices could not probably dominate in the visible range spectra of silicate-bearing KBOs. Reflectance spectra of principal gases’ frosts are mainly flat and featureless in the range (Wagner J. K. et al., 1987, Icarus, 69, 14-28). Besides, silicates of KBOs are probably oxidized and hydrated to a high extent. Highly hydrated main-belt C-class asteroids have absorption bands at 0.43 and 0.6-0.8 microns (up to about 5%) (Vilas F. & M. J. Gaffey, 1989, Science, 246, 790-792 and Vilas F. et al., 1993, Icarus, 102, 225-231). Similar spectral features attributed to oxidized and hydrated silicates were also found on many M- and S-asteroids (e. g., Busarev V. V., 2001, LPSC XXXII, abstract 1927). The absorption bands are interpreted as caused by electronic processes in a bulk of oxidized silicates and hydrated clay minerals including structural OH-groups. Thus, the absorption features may be considered as indicators of a presence of oxidized and/or hydrated silicates on a solid body regardless of its position in the Solar System. For these reasons we have started visible-range spectroscopic observations of Centaurs and the KBOs on Russian 6-m telescope.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: busarev@sai.msu.ru

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