Do Centaurs preserve their source inclinations?

Kathryn Volk, Renu Malhotra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The Centaurs are a population of small, planet-crossing objects in the outer Solar System. They are dynamically short-lived and represent the transition population between the Kuiper belt and the Jupiter family short-period comets. Dynamical models and observations of the physical properties of the Centaurs indicate that they may have multiple source populations in the trans-Neptunian region. It has been suggested that the inclination distribution of the Centaurs may be useful in distinguishing amongst these source regions. The Centaurs, however, undergo many close encounters with the giant planets during their orbital evolution; here we show that these encounters can substantially determine the inclination distribution of the Centaurs. Almost any plausible initial inclination distribution of a Kuiper belt source results in Centaurs having inclinations peaked near 10-20°. Our studies also find that the Kuiper belt is an extremely unlikely source of the retrograde Centaur that has been observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Centaurs
  • Kuiper belt
  • Planetary dynamics
  • Trans-neptunian objects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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