A compositional interpretation of trans-neptunian objects taxonomies

Cristina Morea Dalle Ore, Luciano V. Dalle Ore, Ted L. Roush, Dale P. Cruikshank, Joshua P. Emery, Noemi Pinilla-Alonso, Giuseppe A. Marzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Trans-neptunian objects (TNOs) are a population of small objects orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune. Because of their distance they are difficult to observe spectroscopically, but a large body of photometric observations is available and growing. TNOs are important tracers of the evolution of the outer Solar System and key when testing current dynamical evolution theories. Previous statistical studies of the colors of TNOs have yielded useful but limited results regarding the chemical history and evolution of these bodies.With the aim at obtaining compositional information on the small and distant TNOs we introduce a statistical cluster analysis (labelled albedo) based on colors and published albedos of TNOs. We compare it to a previous taxonomy, to illustrate the significance of including the albedo information when determining the composition of the objects. When the albedo contribution is removed from the data, the new taxonomy (now labelled classical) is in general agreement with the published ones, supporting the applicability of our approach. Making use of modeled reflectance spectra of a variety of plausible mixtures found on the surface of TNOs, we extract the average surface composition of each taxon, for both the classical and the albedo taxonomy, in a statistically consistent fashion.Differently from previous and classical, the albedo taxonomy establishes a direct link between the colors and albedos of the objects and their surface composition, allowing, for the first time, a quick assessment of the chemical history of TNOs. In fact, under closer examination the taxa show trends in composition that might be evolutionary in nature. If a simple 'snow lines' model is adopted, we can infer that albedo taxa relate the current objects' locations to their original ones, prior to the migration of the outer planets. We regard the large population that characterizes the darkest classes spread at a variety of semi-major axis distances as one of the intriguing results of this work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-322
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Ices, IR spectroscopy
  • Photometry
  • Planets, Migration
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Trans-neptunian objects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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