2001 QR322: a dynamically unstable Neptune Trojan?

Horner, J. and Lykawka, P. S. (2010) 2001 QR322: a dynamically unstable Neptune Trojan? Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 405 (1). pp. 49-56. ISSN 0035-8711

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Since early work on the stability of the first Neptunian Trojan, 2001 QR322, suggested that it was a dynamically stable, primordial body, it has been assumed that this applies to both that object and its more recently discovered brethren. However, it seems that things are no longer so clear-cut. In this work, we present the results of detailed dynamical simulations of the orbital behaviour of 2001 QR322. Using an ephemeris for the object that has significantly improved since earlier works, we follow the evolution of 19683 test particles, placed on orbits within the observational error ellipse of 2001 QR322's orbit, for a period of 1Gyr. We find that majority of these `clones' of 2001 QR322 are dynamically unstable, exhibiting a near-exponential decay from both the Neptunian Trojan cloud (decay half-life of ~550Myr) and the Solar system (decay half-life of ~590Myr). The stability of the object within Neptune's Trojan cloud is found to be strongly dependent on the initial semi major axis used, with these objects located at a >= 30.30au being significantly less stable than those interior to this value, as a result of their having initial libration amplitudes very close to a critical threshold dividing regular and irregular motion, located at ~70°-75° (full extent of angular motion). This result suggests that if 2001 QR322 is a primordial Neptunian Trojan, it must be a representative of a population that was once significantly larger than that we see today and adds weight to the idea that the Neptune Trojans may represent a significant source of objects moving on unstable orbits between the giant planets (the Centaurs).

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © 2010 The Authors. This publication is copyright. It may be reproduced in whole or in part for the purposes of study, research, or review, but is subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgment of the source.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - No Department
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2014 01:18
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2014 00:16
Uncontrolled Keywords: N-body simulations; celestial mechanics; Kuiper Belt; minor planets; asteroids; solar system formation
Fields of Research : 02 Physical Sciences > 0201 Astronomical and Space Sciences > 020110 Stellar Astronomy and Planetary Systems
02 Physical Sciences > 0201 Astronomical and Space Sciences > 020108 Planetary Science (excl. Extraterrestrial Geology)
02 Physical Sciences > 0201 Astronomical and Space Sciences > 020101 Astrobiology
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970102 Expanding Knowledge in the Physical Sciences
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.16441.x
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/25552

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