DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 49. KBO and Centaurs I
Oral, Chairs: M. Buie and S. A. Stern, Saturday, September 6, 2003, 3:30-5:40pm, DeAnza III

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[49.12] From Kuiper Belt to Comet: The Shapes of the Nuclei

D. Jewitt (Institute for Astronomy), S. Sheppard, Y. Fernandez (IfA)

It is widely believed that escaped objects from the Kuiper Belt are the source of both the Centaurs and the nuclei of the Jupiter Family Comets (JFCs). If the JFC nuclei are produced by collisional breakup of parent objects in the Kuiper Belt, then it is reasonable to expect that their shape distribution should be consistent with those of fragments produced in disintegrative laboratory experiments, or with the small main-belt asteroids (which are produced collisionally).

We test this idea using a sample of eleven well-observed cometary nuclei. Our main result is that the nuclei are, on average, much more elongated than either the collisionally produced small main-belt asteroids or the fragments created in laboratory impact experiments. Several interpretations of this systematic shape difference are possible (including the obvious one that the JFC nuclei are not, after all, produced collisionally in the Kuiper Belt). Our preferred explanation, however, is that the asphericities of the nuclei have been modified by one or more processes of mass loss. An implication of this interpretation is that the JFC nuclei in our sample are highly evolved, having lost a major part of their original mass. In turn, this implies that the angular momenta of the nuclei are also non-primordial: the JFC nuclei are highly physically evolved objects. We will discuss the evidence supporting these conclusions.

This work has been recently published in Astronomical Journal, 125, 3366-3377 (2003).

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/faculty/jewitt/kbo2comet.html. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: jewitt@ifa.hawaii.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
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