Volume 629, September 2019
|Number of page(s)||20|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||12 September 2019|
Chaos in the inert Oort cloud
IMCCE, Observatoire de Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, Université de Lille,
2 National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, 2-21-1 Osawa, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-8588, Japan
Accepted: 9 August 2019
Context. Distant trans-Neptunian objects are subject to planetary perturbations and galactic tides. The former decrease with the distance, while the latter increase. In the intermediate regime where they have the same order of magnitude (the “inert Oort cloud”), both are weak, resulting in very long evolution timescales. To date, three observed objects can be considered to belong to this category.
Aims. We aim to provide a clear understanding of where this transition occurs, and to characterise the long-term dynamics of small bodies in the intermediate regime: relevant resonances, chaotic zones (if any), and timescales at play.
Methods. The different regimes are explored analytically and numerically. We also monitored the behaviour of swarms of particles during 4.5 Gyrs in order to identify which of the dynamical features are discernible in a realistic amount of time.
Results. There exists a tilted equilibrium plane (Laplace plane) about which orbits precess. The dynamics is integrable in the low and high semi-major axis regimes, but mostly chaotic in between. From about 800 to 1100 astronomical units (au), the chaos covers almost all the eccentricity range. The diffusion timescales are large, but not to the point of being indiscernible in a 4.5 Gyrs duration: the perihelion distance can actually vary from tens to hundreds of au. Orbital variations are damped near the ecliptic (where previous studies focussed), but favoured in specific ranges of inclination corresponding to well-defined resonances. Moreover, starting from uniform distributions, the orbital angles cluster after 4.5 Gyrs for semi-major axes larger than 500 au, because of a very slow differential precession.
Conclusions. Even if it is characterised by very long timescales, the inert Oort cloud mostly features chaotic regions; it is therefore much less inert than it appears. Orbits can be considered inert over 4.5 Gyrs only in small portions of the space of orbital elements, which include (90377) Sedna and 2012VP113. Effects of the galactic tides are discernible down to semi-major axes of about 500 au. We advocate including the galactic tides in simulations of distant trans-Neptunian objects, especially when studying the formation of detached bodies or the clustering of orbital elements.
Key words: celestial mechanics / Kuiper belt: general / Oort cloud
© M. Saillenfest et al. 2019
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