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A Pluto--Charon Sonata: Dynamical Limits on the Masses of the Small Satellites

Status Report From: arXiv.org e-Print archive
Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Scott J. Kenyon, Benjamin C. Bromley

(Submitted on 11 Mar 2019)

During 2005-2012, images from Hubble Space Telescope (HST) revealed four moons orbiting Pluto-Charon (Weaver et al 2006, Showalter et al 2011, 2012). Although their orbits and geometric shapes are well-known, the 2σ uncertainties in the masses of the two largest satellites - Nix and Hydra - are comparable to their HST masses (Brozovic et al 2015, Showalter & Hamilton 2015, Weaver et al 2016). Remarkably, gravitational n-body computer calculations of the long-term system stability on 0.1-1 Gyr time scales place much tighter constraints on the masses of Nix and Hydra, with upper limits ∼ 10% larger than the HST mass. Constraints on the mass density using size measurements from New Horizons suggest Nix and Hydra formed in icier material than Pluto and Charon.

Comments: 20 pages of text, 3 tables, 9 figures, submitted to Astronomical Journal

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1903.04520 [astro-ph.EP]

  (or arXiv:1903.04520v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Scott J. Kenyon 

[v1] Mon, 11 Mar 2019 18:08:52 UTC (1,054 KB)

https://arxiv.org/abs/1903.04520

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