Journal Article

The Hill stability of binary asteroid and binary Kuiper Belt systems

J. R. Donnison

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 415, issue 1, pages 470-486
Published in print July 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.18720.x
The Hill stability of binary asteroid and binary Kuiper Belt systems

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The dynamical stability of a bound triple system composed of a binary asteroid system or Kuiper Belt binary system moving on an orbit inclined to a central third body, the Sun, is discussed in terms of Hill stability for the full three-body problem. The regions of Hill stability of these triple systems, where the binary mass is very small compared with that of the third body, can be determined against the possibility of disruption, component exchange and capture. The critical Hill stability curves for the binary mass range of these types of systems are determined for different secondary-to-primary mass ratios as a function of their orbital eccentricity. The regions of stability are found to increase with increasing binary mass. The regions, however, decrease in size substantially with increasing orbital eccentricity and also decrease slightly as the secondary/primary mass ratio of the binary is decreased.

The currently observed binary and multiple asteroid systems are discussed generally. In the majority of systems, the primary component is very much larger than the secondary component, forming an asteroid–satellite system. It was found that those systems where the binary mass is well determined would lie in stable regions if they moved on circular orbits, but when their eccentricity is taken into account, it is less clear that the systems are stable. The same is likely to be true for the systems where the masses are not well established. Upper mass limits could be placed on these systems that would ensure they are Hill stable. The currently observed Kuiper Belt binaries were also discussed generally. The majority of these binary systems have secondary components which are often comparable to the diameter of the primary component forming a true binary system. Similar to the asteroid binaries, it was found that binary systems where the mass was well determined were stable if they moved on circular orbits relative to the Sun. When the eccentricity is taken into account, it is less clear that the systems are stable. The same conclusions are also likely to be true for the systems with unknown masses. Upper mass limits again can be placed on these systems that would ensure they are Hill stable.

Keywords: celestial mechanics; Kuiper belt: general; minor planets, asteroids: general

Journal Article.  9161 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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