DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 39. KBO and Centaurs II
Poster, Highlighted on, Friday, September 5, 2003, 3:30-6:00pm, Sierra Ballroom I-II

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[39.15] KBO binaries: are they really primordial ?

J.-M. Petit, O. Mousis (CNRS-UMR 6091 Observatoire de Besanšon, France)

Given the large orbital separation and high satellite-to-primary mass ratio of all known Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) binaries, it is important to reassess their stability as bound pairs with respect to several disruptive mechanisms. Besides the classical shattering and dispersing of the secondary due to a high-velocity impact, we considered the possibility that the secondary is kicked off its orbit by a direct collision of a small impactor, or that it is gravitationally perturbed due to the close approach of a somewhat larger TNO. Depending on the values for the size/mass/separation of the binaries that we used, 2 or 3 of the 8 pairs can be dispersed in a timescale shorter than the age of the solar system in the current rarefied environment. A contemporary formation scenario could explain why we still observe these binaries, but no convincing mechanism has been proposed to date. The primordial formation scenarios, which seem to be the only viable ones, must be revised to increase the formation efficiency in order to account for this high dispersal rate. Objects like the large-separatioKBO binary n2001~QW322 must have been initially an order of magnitude more numerous. If the KBO binaries are indeed primordial, then we show that the mass depletion of the Kuiper belt cannot result from collisional grinding, but must rather be due to dynamical ejection.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: petit@obs-besancon.fr

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.