Irregular Satellites of the Planets
- Jewitt, David
- Physical Description:
- 1 electronic document
- Restrictions on Access:
- Unclassified, Unlimited, Publicly available.
- This proposal is directed towards the observational exploration of the irregular satellite systems of the planets. Primarily we use large-format CCD cameras on the world's largest telescopes, on Mauna Kea, to discover new irregular satellites and then to monitor their positions in order to ascertain their orbital characteristics. Separate observations are taken to determine the physical properties of the irregular satellites. The big picture science objective is to determine how these satellites were captures, and to use the properties of the satellites and their orbits to place constraints on early solar system (including formation) processes. Work in the first year has focussed on a major investigation of the Saturn irregular satellite system. We secured observing time on the Subaru and Gemini 8-m diameter telescopes in December 2004, January, February and March 2005 for the conduct of a deep, wide-area survey. This has resulted in the detection and orbit determination for 12 new satellites to be announced in the next week or two. Additional satellites were lost, temporarily, due to unusually poor weather conditions on Mauna Kea. These objects will be recovered and their orbits published next year. A separate survey of the Uranus irregular satellites was published (Sheppard, Jewitt and Kleyna 2005). Away from the telescope, we have discovered the amazing result that the four giant planets possess similar numbers of irregular satellites. This flies in the face of the standard gas-drag model for satellite capture, since only two of the giant planets are gas giants and the others (Uranus and Neptune) formed by a different process and in the absence of much gas. The constancy of the satellite number (each giant holds approximately 100 irregular satellites measured down to the kilometer scale) is either a coincidence, with different capture mechanisms at different planets giving by chance the same total numbers of irregular satellites, or indicates that the satellites were captured by a completely different process. We favor the latter (Jewitt and Sheppard 2005).
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20050162064.
- No Copyright.
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