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Constraints on the Orbital Evolution of Triton

Published Article
Publication Date
May 10, 2005
Submission Date
May 10, 2005
DOI: 10.1086/431743
arXiv ID: astro-ph/0505235
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We present simulations of Triton's post-capture orbit that confirm the importance of Kozai-type oscillations in its orbital elements. In the context of the tidal orbital evolution model, these variations require average pericenter distances much higher than previously published, and the timescale for the tidal orbital evolution of Triton becomes longer than the age of the Solar System. Recently-discovered irregular satellites present a new constraint on Triton's orbital history. Our numerical integrations of test particles indicate a timescale for Triton's orbital evolution to be less than $10^5$ yrs for a reasonable number of distant satellites to survive Triton's passage. This timescale is inconsistent with the exclusively tidal evolution (time scale of $>10^8$ yrs), but consistent with the interestion with the debris from satellite-satellite collisions. Any major regular satellites will quickly collide among themselves after being perturbed by Triton, and the resulting debris disk would eventually be swept up by Triton; given that the total mass of the Uranian satellite system is 40% of that of Triton, large scale evolution is possible. This scenario could have followed either collisional or the recently-discussed three-body-interaction-based capture.

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