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Astron. Astrophys. 324, 778-784 (1997)

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On dynamical scattering of Kuiper Belt Objects in 2:3 resonance with Neptune into short-period comets

Wing-Huen Ip 1 and J.A. Fernandez 2

1 Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie, D-37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, (e-mail: IP@LINMPI.mpae.GWDG.de)
2 Departamento de Astronomia, Facultad de Ciencias, Tristan Narraja 1674, 11200 Montevideo, Uruguay

Received 2 April 1996 / Accepted 30 October 1996


A large number of trans-Neptunian comets might have been detected by the Hubble Space Telescope. If a significant fraction of these Halley-sized objects are stored in the 2:3 orbital resonance with Neptune, random gravitational scattering by the Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) with diameters in the hundred km range is found to be of potential importance in destabilizing the resonant orbits and hence acts as an injection mechanism of short-period comets. The relevant feeding rate of short-period comets from the 2:3 resonant population is estimated to be comparable to the injection rate as a result of dynamical sculpting by long-term planetary perturbations. Similar dynamical interaction could also lead to the injection of KBOs of a few hundred km diameter from the 2:3 resonant zone into the region inside the orbits of Neptune and Uranus. The comet-like object, 2060 Chiron might be such an example. The number of similar objects is estimated to be 5-10, while the total number of KBOs of 100 km size or larger leaking across the orbit or Neptune, e.g. Centaurs, may be on the order of 50.

Key words: comets: general – planets and satellites: general


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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: May 26, 1998