The Rarity of Very Red Trans-Neptunian Objects in the Scattered Disk

Mohamad Ali-Dib, Michaël Marsset, Wing Cheung Wong, Rola Dbouk

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We investigate the origins of the photometrically very red (VR) and less red (LR) trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). We first reanalyze the data set of Marsset et al. and find that in addition to the known color-inclination correlation in hot TNOs, a similar trend exists for color-eccentricity. We show that VR TNOs are sharply constrained to eccentricities <0.42 and inclinations <21°, leading to a paucity of VR scattered disk and distant mean motion resonance objects. We then interpret these findings using N-body simulations accounting for Neptune's outward migration into a massless particles disk and find that these observations are best reproduced with an LR-to-VR color transition line between ∼38 and 42 au in the primordial disk, separating the objects' formation locations. For an initial surface density profile (Σ ∝ 1/r 2), a color transition around 38 au is needed to explain the high abundance of VR plutinos, but it creates too many VR scattered disk objects, while a transition line around 42 au seems to better reproduce the scattered disk colors but creates virtually no VR plutinos. Our simulations furthermore show that the rarity of VR particles at high eccentricity is possibly due to the absence of sweeping higher-order MMRs, and secular resonances, beyond 42 au. Inspecting individual populations, we show that the majority of VR SDOs originate as objects trapped in Neptune's second- and third-order MMRs. These then evolve due to diffusion, scattering, Kozai-Lidov cycles, and secular resonances into their current orbits. Future unbiased color surveys are crucial to better constrain the TNOs dynamical origins.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number19
    JournalAstronomical Journal
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jul 2021

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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