The Kuiper Belt is a population of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. A particularly puzzling and up-to-now unexplained feature of the Kuiper Belt is the so-called “kernel,” a concentration of orbits with semimajor axes a ≃ 44 AU, eccentricities e ∼ 0.05, and inclinations i\lt 5^\circ . Here we show that the Kuiper Belt kernel can be explained if Neptune’s otherwise smooth migration was interrupted by a discontinuous change of Neptune’s semimajor axis when Neptune reached ≃28 AU. Before the discontinuity happened, planetesimals located at ∼40 AU were swept into Neptune’s 2:1 resonance, and were carried with the migrating resonance outwards. The 2:1 resonance was at ≃44 AU when Neptune reached ≃28 AU. If Neptune’s semimajor axis changed by fraction of AU at this point, perhaps because Neptune was scattered off of another planet, the 2:1 population would have been released at ≃44 AU, and would remain there to this day. We show that the orbital distribution of bodies produced in this model provides a good match to the orbital properties of the kernel. If Neptune migration was conveniently slow after the jump, the sweeping 2:1 resonance would deplete the population of bodies at ≃45-47 AU, thus contributing to the paucity of the low-inclination orbits in this region. Special provisions, probably related to inefficiencies in the accretional growth of sizable objects, are still needed to explain why only a few low-inclination bodies have been so far detected beyond ≃47 AU.
The Astronomical Journal
- Pub Date:
- September 2015
- Kuiper belt: general;
- planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability;
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- to appear in The Astronomical Journal