A taxonomic scheme based on multivariate statistics is proposed to distinguish groups of TNOs having the same behavior concerning their BVRIJ colors. As in the case of asteroids, the broadband spectrophotometry provides a first hint about the bulk compositional properties of the TNOs' surfaces. Principal components (PC) analysis shows that most of the TNOs' color variability can be accounted for by a single component (i.e., a linear combination of the colors): All the studied objects are distributed along a quasicontinuous trend spanning from "gray" (neutral color with respect to those of the Sun) to very "red" (showing a spectacular increase in the reflectance of the I and J bands). A finer structure is superimposed to this trend and four homogeneous "compositional" classes emerge clearly, and independently from the PC analysis, if the TNO sample is analyzed with a grouping technique (the G-mode statistics). The first class (designed as BB) contains the objects that are neutral in color with respect to the Sun, while the RR class contains the very red ones. Two intermediate classes are separated by theG mode: the BR and the IR, which are clearly distinguished by the reflectance relative increases in the R and I bands. Some characteristics of the classes are deduced that extend to all the objects of a given class the properties that are common to those members of the class for which more detailed data are available (observed activity, full spectra, albedo). The distributions of the classes with respect to the distance from the Sun and to the orbital inclination give some hints on the chemico-physical structure of the inner part of the Kuiper belt. An interpretation of the average broadband spectra of the four classes as the result of modifying processes (collisions, space weathering, degassing, etc.), allows us to read the proposed taxonomy in terms of the evolution of TNOs.
The Solar System Beyond Neptune
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