Orbital Dynamics Landscape near the Most Distant Known Trans-Neptunian Objects

Kathryn Volk, Renu Malhotra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The most distant known trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), those with perihelion distance above 38 au and semimajor axis above 150 au, are of interest for their potential to reveal past, external, or present but unseen perturbers. Realizing this potential requires understanding how the known planets influence their orbital dynamics. We use a recently developed Poincaré mapping approach for orbital phase space studies of the circular planar restricted three-body problem, which we have extended to the case of the 3D restricted problem with N planetary perturbers. With this approach, we explore the dynamical landscape of the 23 most distant TNOs under the perturbations of the known giant planets. We find that, counter to common expectations, almost none of these TNOs are far removed from Neptune’s resonances. Nearly half (11) of these TNOs have orbits consistent with stable libration in Neptune’s resonances; in particular, the orbits of TNOs 148209 and 474640 overlap with Neptune’s 20:1 and 36:1 resonances, respectively. Five objects can be ruled currently nonresonant, despite their large orbital uncertainties, because our mapping approach determines the resonance boundaries in angular phase space in addition to semimajor axis. Only three objects are in orbital regions not appreciably affected by resonances: Sedna, 2012 VP113 and 2015 KG163. Our analysis also demonstrates that Neptune’s resonances impart a modest (few percent) nonuniformity in the longitude of perihelion distribution of the currently observable distant TNOs. While not large enough to explain the observed clustering, this small dynamical sculpting of the perihelion longitudes could become relevant for future, larger TNO data sets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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