Capture of Trans-Neptunian Planetesimals in the Main Asteroid Belt

David Vokrouhlický, William F. Bottke, and David Nesvorný

The Astronomical Journal, Volume 152, Number 2
Published 2016 July 26


“The orbital evolution of the giant planets after nebular gas was eliminated from the Solar System but before the planets reached their final configuration was driven by interactions with a vast sea of leftover planetesimals. Several variants of planetary migration with this kind of system architecture have been proposed. Here, we focus on a highly successful case, which assumes that there were once five planets in the outer Solar System in a stable configuration: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and a Neptune-like body. Beyond these planets existed a primordial disk containing thousands of Pluto-sized bodies, ~50 million D > 100 km bodies, and a multitude of smaller bodies. This system eventually went through a dynamical instability that scattered the planetesimals and allowed the planets to encounter one another. The extra Neptune-like body was ejected via a Jupiter encounter, but not before it helped to populate stable niches with disk planetesimals across the Solar System. Here, we investigate how interactions between the fifth giant planet, Jupiter, and disk planetesimals helped to capture disk planetesimals into both the asteroid belt and first-order mean-motion resonances with Jupiter. Using numerical simulations, we find that our model produces the right proportion of P- and D-type asteroids in the inner, central, and outer main belt, while also populating the Hilda and Thule regions in Jupiter’s 3/2 and 4/3 resonances. Moreover, the largest observed P/D types in each sub-population are an excellent fit to our captured population results (within uncertainties). The model produces a factor of ~10 overabundance of diameter D > 10 km P/D types in the main belt, but this mismatch can likely be explained by various removal mechanisms (e.g., collision evolution over 4 Gyr, dynamical losses via Yarkovsky thermal forces over 4 Gyr, thermal destruction of the planetesimals en route to the inner solar system). Overall, our instability model provides a more satisfying match to constraints than that of Levison et al., and it provides us with strong supporting evidence that the five giant planet instability model is reasonable. Our results lead us to predict that D-type asteroids found in the near-Earth object population on low delta-V orbits with Earth are the surviving relics from the same source population that now make up the Kuiper Belt, the irregular satellites, and the Jupiter Trojans. The singular Tagish Lake meteorite, a primitive sample unlike other carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, is likely a fragment from a D-type asteroid implanted into the inner main belt. This would effectively make it the first known hand sample with the same composition as Kuiper Belt objects.”