Resonance occupation in the Kuiper belt: Case examples of the 5:2 and Trojan resonances

E. I. Chiang, A. B. Jordan, R. L. Millis, M. W. Buie, L. H. Wasserman, J. L. Elliot, S. D. Kern, D. E. Trilling, K. J. Meech, R. M. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


As part of our ongoing Deep Ecliptic Survey (DES) of the Kuiper belt, we report on the occupation of the 1:1 (Trojan), 4:3, 3:2, 7:4, 2:1, and 5:2 Neptunian mean motion resonances (MMRs). The previously unrecognized occupation of the 1:1 and 5:5 MMRs is not easily understood within the standard model of resonance sweeping by a migratory Neptune over an initially dynamically cold belt. Among all resonant Kuiper belt objects (KBOs), the three observed members of the 5:2 MMR discovered by DES possess the largest semimajor axes (a ≈ 55. 4 AU), the highest eccentricities (e ≈ 0.4), and substantial orbital inclinations (i ≈ 10°). Objects (38084) 1999HB12 and possibly 2001KC77 can librate with modest amplitudes of ∼90° within the 5:2 MMR for at least 1 Gyr. Their trajectories cannot be explained by close encounters with Neptune alone, given the latter's current orbit. The dynamically hot orbits of such 5:2 resonant KBOs, unlike hot orbits of previously known resonant KBOs, may imply that these objects were preheated to large inclination and large eccentricity prior to resonance capture by a migratory Neptune. Our first discovered Neptunian Trojan, 2001QR322, may not owe its existence to Neptune's migration at all. The trajectory of 2001QR322 is remarkably stable; the object can undergo tadpole-type libration about Neptune's leading Lagrange (L4) point for at least 1 Gyr with a libration amplitude of 24°. Trojan capture probably occurred while Neptune accreted the bulk of its mass. For an assumed albedo of 12%-4%, our Trojan is ∼ 130-230 km in diameter. Model-dependent estimates place the total number of Neptune Trojans resembling 2001QR322 at ∼20-60. Their existence helps to rule out violent orbital histories for Neptune.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-443
Number of pages14
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1 1771
StatePublished - Jul 2003


  • Celestial mechanics
  • Comets: general
  • Kuiper belt
  • Minor planets, asteroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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