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Dynamical parameter determinations in Pluto’s system

By L. Beauvalet, V. Lainey, J.-E. Arlot and Richard P. Binzel


Pluto is the multiple system that has been observed the longest. Yet, the masses of its smallest satellites, Nix and Hydra, which were discovered in 2005, are still imprecisely known, because of the short time span and number of available observations. We present a numerical model that takes into account the second order gravity fields and Pluto’s orbital motion in the solar system. We investigated the dynamical parameters that may be reliably determined today. We also assessed the possible improvements on the parameter uncertainties with the future increase of observations, including the New Horizons mission. Fitting our model to simulated data, we show that the precision of observations prevents the quantification of the polar oblateness J2 and equatorial bulge c22 of Pluto and Charon. Similarly, we show that the masses are on the detection limit. In particular, unless 25 observations are made every year, the mass of Nix may be constrained with confidence only with New Horizons data. Hydra’s mass will only be constrained by the probe. The recent discovery of P4 might change this situation, but our knowledge of this object is still too vague to draw any conclusion.United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (New Horizons Mission science team

Publisher: EDP Sciences
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1051/0004-6361
OAI identifier:
Provided by: DSpace@MIT
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