The Main Point. Why was Pluto once considered a planet? Discovery of (134340) Pluto. The Trans-Neptunian Region. Reading: Chapter 12.3.

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1 Lecture #32 The Trans-Neptunian Region (134340) Pluto: Discovery. Classification. i Physical characteristics. Charon. Other Kuiper Belt Objects. Reading: Chapter Astro 102/104 1 The Main Point The trans-neptunian region contains billions of icy bodies orbiting the Sun beyond the orbit of Neptune. (134340) Pluto is a large member of the trans-neptunian region (or Kuiper Belt) and is officially classified as a dwarf planet. Astro 102/104 4 Discovery of (134340) Pluto Pluto was discovered in 1930 by a fortunate accident. Percival Lowell made calculations which later turned out to be in error that predicted a planet beyond Neptune, based on the motions of Uranus and Neptune. Not tknowing of the error, Clyde W. Tombaugh at tlowell Observatory in Arizona did a very careful sky survey. For 14 years Tombaugh scanned the skies, and discovered: 1 globular star cluster 1 comet 1 supercluster of galaxies 5 open star clusters 775 asteroids 1 trans-neptunian object (Pluto) Astro 102/104 6 Why was Pluto once considered a planet? More than a dozen asteroids, including (1) Ceres and (2) Pallas, seemed unique at the time of their discovery. They were classified as planets before their demotion some 50 years later. (134340) Pluto seemed unique at the time of its discovery, and it was hailed as a new planet. Later it was found that Pluto is quite small. Pluto's diameter is only 2320 km (smaller than the Moon, Io, Europa, Orbits of outer solar system objects known at the time of Ganymede, Callisto, Titan, & Triton). Pluto s discovery. J, S, U, N in blue. Pluto in red. Astro 102/

2 Why did Pluto lose its planet status? Starting in 1992, astronomers began to discover bodies in the trans-neptunian region. They gradually realized that Pluto is not unique but is embedded in a vast swarm of objects sharing similar orbital and physical properties. Just like Ceres and Pallas, Pluto lost its planet status when new discoveries prompted a revision to the classification. S. Soter, Scientific Am merican, Jan 07. Astro 102/104 8 Orbits of objects known at the time of Pluto s discovery. Orbits of objects known today. Astro 102/104 9 What makes a planet? This diagram shows that there is a difference of five orders of magnitude (100,000) in the ability of planets and dwarf planets to gravitationally control their orbital zone. This difference is the result of the planet formation process. Objects above and below the dotted line underwent different formation scenarios. The scattering parameter is relatively easy to quantify and makes Astro 102/104 classification of newly discovered 10 S. Soter, Astronomical Journal, 132, objects practical. Decision by the International Astronomical Union The IAU is an organization of over 9,000 professional astronomers. It has been the arbiter of planetary and satellite nomenclature since its inception in It is the only administrative body with the jurisdiction to define a planet. The 2006 resolution was approved by an overwhelming majority. Astro 102/

3 Basic physical properties: Pluto is far away, small, and icy Orbit: a 6 billion km (39.5 AU); orbital period = years. e = 0.25, so perihelion = 29.6 AU and aphelion = 49.4 AU. Orbit crosses Neptune's, but 3:2 resonance prevents close encounters. Orbit is inclined by 17 to the ecliptic. Pluto's tilt (inclination) is 118 : Pluto "rolls" on its side like Uranus! Pluto's diameter is only 2320 km (smaller than the Moon, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Titan, & Triton). Pluto's mass is 1.3x10 22 kg ( M E ); density is about 2 g/cm 3. Surface temperature ranges from 40K to 60K (-235 C to -215 C). Surface consists of N 2, CH 4, C 2 H 2, and CO ices (like a comet!) Astro 102/ Astro 102/ Pluto (D = 2320 km): Named after the Greek god of the underworld who was able to render himself invisible. Charon (D = 1270 km): Named after the mythological boatman who ferried souls across the river Styx to Pluto for judgment. Nix (D = km): Goddess of darkness and night, mother of Charon. Pluto has satellites Hydra (D = km): Terrifying monster with the body of a serpent and nine heads that guarded the Underworld. Astro 102/ Charon Discovered in Charon is large relative to Pluto: 1270 km diameter (more than half Pluto's size!). Orbital separation ~20,000 km. Revolves around Pluto in 6.4 days. Pluto's spin period is 6.4 days. Charon is bright: icy. But spectra show H 2 O ice, not CO, N 2, or CH 4 like Pluto. Density about 1.6 g/cm 3. Probably formed by a giant impact. Groundbased, 1978 Astro 102/

4 Earth passed through the plane of the Pluto/Charon orbit in the late 1980s. Resulting eclipses provided a way to study & map both objects in great detail. Won't happen again until 2110! Pluto/Charon Eclipses! 118 inclination Astro 102/ Surface Composition Spectroscopy. Phase Diagrams. Modeling. Methane ice (CH 4 )was discovered first in Surface is dominated by Nitrogen ice (N 2 ) with traces of CH 4 and CO. Very low pressures and temperatures: Comparable to Triton. Astro 102/ Pluto has a thin atmosphere Between 1979 and 1999, Pluto was near perihelion and closer to the Sun than Neptune. Surface temperatures warm enough for some CO, CH 4, and N 2 ices to sublimate. Atmosphere discovered by stellar occultations by Pluto. Surface pressure is only a few microbars (10-6 bar). As Pluto recedes from the Sun, the atmosphere may freeze out back onto the surface. Astro 102/ Pluto and the Kuiper Belt Pluto is a large member of a class of small bodies known as Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) or trans- Neptunian objects (TNOs). The discovery of the second TNO was in 1992! Currently more than 1000 TNOs known. Most known TNOs have sizes above 100 km. Icy compositions. Pluto Neptune Astro 102/

5 Trans-Neptunian Objects Primitive objects with semi-major axis between 30 AU and hundreds of AU. Many protected from encounters with the planets by orbital resonances (like Pluto). TNOs are the source of short period comets. There may be 100,000 TNOs larger than 100 km, and the total mass may be ~0.01 M E. This is more than the number and mass of asteroids in the main asteroid belt! Astro 102/ Classes of TNOs Still much debate about differences in color and composition--they are hard to measure. But there are classes based on orbit parameters: "Classical" TNOs: Objects with circular orbits never too close to Neptune; formed by "quiet" slow accretion of primordial outer solar nebula materials? "Scattered" TNOs: Objects on eccentric, inclined orbits; these objects have once encountered a giant planet? Resonant" TNOs: Objects that occupy an orbital resonance with Neptune (like Pluto). Astro 102/ Overhead view of the known trans-neptunian region as of (Blue=classical, Red=resonant, Black=scattered). Mission to the trans-neptunian region NASA selected the New Horizons mission to fly by Pluto and another TNO. Launch in 2006, arrival at Pluto in Mission cost ~$650 million. Plot of TNO semi-major axis (x-axis) vs. eccentricity (y-axis), showing classical & resonant TNOs. Astro 102/ Astro 102/

6 Summary (134340) Pluto is a dwarf planet. It is part of the Kuiper belt or trans-neptunian region. Pluto is a small icy outer solar system world: Surface composed of N 2, CO, CH 4 ices. Thin atmosphere formed by ice sublimation. It has an eccentric and inclined orbit similar to that of many TNOs. Pluto is "protected" in a 3:2 resonance with Neptune. Pluto has a moon (Charon) half its size, and two smaller moons (Nix and Hydra). It remains a fascinating object worthy of scientific inquiry. Astro 102/

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