EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 508, Number 2, December III 2009
Page(s) 1021 - 1030
Section Planets and planetary systems
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200911943
Published online 08 October 2009
A&A 508, 1021-1030 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200911943

Neptune Trojans and Plutinos: colors, sizes, dynamics, and their possible collisions

A. J. C. Almeida1, 2, N. Peixinho3, 4, and A. C. M. Correia1, 5

1  Departamento de Física, Universidade de Aveiro, Campus de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
2  Instituto de Telecomunicações, IT - Aveiro, Campus de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
3  Centro de Física Computacional, Universidade de Coimbra, 3004-516 Coimbra, Portugal
4  Observatório Astronómico da Universidade de Coimbra, 3040-004 Coimbra, Portugal
5  Astronomie et Systèmes Dynamiques, IMCCE-CNRS UMR8028, 77 Av. Denfert-Rochereau, 75014 Paris, France

Received 24 February 2009 / Accepted 23 September 2009

Neptune Trojans and Plutinos are two subpopulations of trans-Neptunian objects located in the 1:1 and the 3:2 mean motion resonances with Neptune, respectively, and therefore protected from close encounters with the planet. However, the orbits of these two kinds of objects may cross very often, allowing a higher collisional rate between them than with other kinds of trans-Neptunian objects, and a consequent size distribution modification of the two subpopulations.
Observational colors and absolute magnitudes of Neptune Trojans and Plutinos show that i) there are no intrinsically bright (large) Plutinos at small inclinations; ii) there is an apparent excess of blue and intrinsically faint (small) Plutinos; and iii) Neptune Trojans possess the same blue colors as Plutinos within the same (estimated) size range do.
For the present subpopulations we analyzed the most favorable conditions for close encounters/collisions and address any link there could be between those encounters and the sizes and/or colors of Plutinos and Neptune Trojans. We also performed a simultaneous numerical simulation of the outer Solar System over 1 Gyr for all these bodies in order to estimate their collisional rate.
We conclude that orbital overlap between Neptune Trojans and Plutinos is favored for Plutinos with large libration amplitudes, high eccentricities, and small inclinations. Additionally, with the assumption that the collisions can be disruptive creating smaller objects not necessarily with similar colors, the present high concentration of small Plutinos with small inclinations can thus be a consequence of a collisional interaction with Neptune Trojans and such hypothesis should be further analyzed.

Key words: methods: N-body simulations -- solar system: formation -- techniques: photometric -- celestial mechanics -- Kuiper Belt -- minor planets, asteroids

© ESO 2009