The evidence of an early stellar encounter in Edgeworth - Kuiper belt

Hiroshi Kobayashi, Shigeru Ida, Hidekazu Tanaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate the influence of a stellar fly-by encounter on the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt objects through numerical orbital calculations, in order to explain both mass depletion and high orbital inclinations of the classical Edgeworth-Kuiper belt (CEKB) objects, which have semimajor axis of 42-48 AU and perihelia beyond 35 AU. The observationally inferred total mass of the CEKB is ∼ 1/10 Earth masses, which is only ∼0.02 of that extrapolated from the minimum-mass solar nebula model. The CEKB consists of bimodal population: "hot population" with inclinations i ≃ 0.2 - 0.6 radians and "cold population" with i ≃ 0.1. The observationally suggested difference in size and color of objects between the two populations may imply different origins of the two populations. We find that both the depletion of solid materials in the CEKB and the formation of the hot population are accounted for by a single close stellar encounter with pericenter distance of 80-100 AU and inclination relative to the initial protoplanetary disk ≃ 50° - 70 °. Such a stellar encounter highly pumps up eccentricities of most objects in the CEKB and then their perihelia migrate within 35 AU. These objects would be removed by Neptune's perturbations after Neptune is formed at or migrates to the current position (30 AU). Less than 10% of the original objects remain in stable orbits with small eccentricities and perihelion distances larger than 35 AU, in the CEKB, which is consistent with the observation. We find that i of the remaining objects are as large as that of the observed hot population. The only problem is how to stop Neptune's migration at ∼30 AU, which is addressed in a separate paper. The depletion by the stellar encounter extends deeply into ∼ 30 - 35 AU, which provides the basis of the formation model for the cold population through Neptune's outward migration by Levison and Morbidelli (2003, Nature, 426, 419-421). The combination of our model with Levison and Morbidelli's model could consistently explain the mass depletion, truncation at 50 AU, bimodal distribution in i, and differences in size and color between the hot and the cold populations in the CEKB.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-255
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Sep 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Kuiper belt objects
  • Orbits
  • Origin
  • Solar System

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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