Flipping minor bodies: what comet 96P/Machholz 1 can tell us about the orbital evolution of extreme trans-Neptunian objects and the production of near-Earth objects on retrograde orbits

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  • MNRAS 446, 18671873 (2015) doi:10.1093/mnras/stu2230

    Flipping minor bodies: what comet 96P/Machholz 1 can tell us about theorbital evolution of extreme trans-Neptunian objects and the productionof near-Earth objects on retrograde orbits

    Carlos de la Fuente Marcos,1 Raul de la Fuente Marcos1 and Sverre J. Aarseth21Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria, E-28040 Madrid, Spain2Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA, UK

    Accepted 2014 October 22. Received 2014 October 16; in original form 2014 September 23

    ABSTRACTNearly all known extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs) have argument of perihelion closeto 0. An existing observational bias strongly favours the detection of ETNOs with argumentsof perihelion close to 0 and 180 yet no objects have been found at 180. No plausibleexplanation has been offered so far to account for this unusual pattern. Here, we study thedynamical evolution of comet 96P/Machholz 1, a bizarre near-Earth object (NEO) that mayprovide the key to explain the puzzling clustering of orbits around argument of perihelion closeto 0 recently found for the population of ETNOs. Comet 96P/Machholz 1 is currently lockedin a Kozai resonance with Jupiter such that the value of its argument of perihelion is alwaysclose to 0 at its shortest possible perihelion (highest eccentricity and lowest inclination)and about 180 near its shortest aphelion (longest perihelion distance, lowest eccentricityand highest inclination). If this object is a dynamical analogue (albeit limited) of the knownETNOs, this implies that massive perturbers must keep them confined in orbital parameterspace. Besides, its future dynamical evolution displays orbital flips when its eccentricity isexcited to a high value and its orbit turns over by nearly 180, rolling over its major axis. Thisunusual behaviour, that is preserved when post-Newtonian terms are included in the numericalintegrations, may also help understand the production of NEOs on retrograde orbits.

    Key words: relativistic processes celestial mechanics comets: individual: 96P/Machholz1 minor planets, asteroids: individual: 2012 VP113 planets and satellites: individual: Earth planets and satellites: individual: Jupiter.

    1 IN T RO D U C T I O N

    Two Solar system discoveries have recently puzzled the astronom-ical community: the existence of near-Earth objects (NEOs, per-ihelion distance less than 1.3 au and, if a comet, orbital periodless than 200 yr) moving on retrograde orbits and the clustering oforbits around argument of perihelion, , close to 0 for extremetrans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs, semimajor axis greater than 150au and perihelion distance greater than 30 au).There are only 11 known retrograde NEOs: three asteroids

    (343158) 2009 HC82, 2007 VA85 and 2014 PP69 andeight comets (55P/Tempel-Tuttle, 1P/Halley, P/2005 T4 (SWAN),C/2010 L5 (WISE), 273P/Pons-Gambart, C/2001W2 (BATTERS),109P/Swift-Tuttle and 161P/Hartley-IRAS). The number of knownnear-Earth asteroids (NEAs) is 11 490 and the number of near-Earth comets (NECs) is 165. Retrograde objects represent a tiny

    E-mail: nbplanet@fis.ucm.es

    fraction, 0.094 per cent, of the NEO population. Numerical integra-tions carried out by Greenstreet et al. (2012) unveiled a dynamicalmechanism capable of inducing ordinary asteroid orbits to flip to aretrograde configuration while trapped in the 3:1 mean motion res-onance with Jupiter near 2.5 au. These authors predict that nearly0.1 per cent of the NEO population could follow retrograde orbits.

    Nearly all known ETNOs have close to 0 (the average valueis 31 50, see a discussion in Trujillo & Sheppard 2014; de laFuente Marcos & de la Fuente Marcos 2014b). An existing obser-vational bias strongly favours the detection of ETNOs at close to0 and 180 yet no objects have been found at 180 (de la FuenteMarcos & de la Fuente Marcos 2014b; Trujillo & Sheppard 2014).No plausible explanation has been offered so far to account forthe apparent lack of objects with around 180. The perplexingpuzzle posed by the apparent lack of such objects among knownmembers of the ETNO population is not the only unusual patterndisplayed by the orbital parameters of this interesting group of trans-Plutonian objects (see fig. 3 in de la Fuente Marcos & de la FuenteMarcos 2014b). The orbital elements of these objects (see Table 1)

    C 2014 The AuthorsPublished by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society

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  • 1868 C. de la Fuente Marcos, R. de la Fuente Marcos and S. J. Aarseth

    Table 1. Various orbital parameters ( = + , = + M) for the 13 known ETNOs (Epoch: JD 245 7000.5 that corresponds to 0:00 UT on2014 December 9. J2000.0 ecliptic and equinox. Source: JPL Small-Body Database.)

    Object a (au) e i () () () () () Q (au)

    (82158) 2001 FP185 222.889 5152 0.846 387 69 30.769 61 179.316 63 6.837 00 186.154 00 187.343 00 411.540(90377) Sedna 524.394 5961 0.854 895 32 11.928 62 144.544 52 48.712 10 95.832 40 93.995 30 972.697(148209) 2000 CR105 230.115 1596 0.807 771 92 22.707 02 128.234 35 42.842 10 90.486 00 90.486 00 415.9962002 GB32 211.862 8339 0.833 188 09 14.179 59 176.997 86 36.897 40 213.986 00 213.986 00 388.3842003 HB57 162.392 5720 0.765 454 17 15.488 11 197.848 47 10.666 03 209.543 00 209.543 00 286.6972003 SS422 195.958 1432 0.798 780 68 16.807 11 151.109 76 149.988 00 1.841 13 1.841 13 352.4862004 VN112 328.822 6182 0.856 056 08 25.537 59 66.037 81 32.776 70 33.571 60 33.571 60 610.3132005 RH52 151.939 8031 0.743 293 46 20.468 37 306.196 32 32.518 41 340.919 00 340.919 00 264.8762007 TG422 518.173 8582 0.931 328 60 18.580 61 112.976 97 74.166 00 39.087 50 39.087 50 1000.7602007 VJ305 190.768 7814 0.815 492 71 11.994 49 24.383 49 21.514 50 4.086 05 4.086 05 346.3392010 GB174 370.187 2857 0.868 640 73 21.532 45 130.586 94 12.346 30 118.241 00 121.418 00 691.7472010 VZ98 155.258 2279 0.778 963 05 4.509 14 117.467 09 46.150 10 71.317 00 68.902 10 276.1992012 VP113 263.119 3815 0.694 001 29 24.024 19 90.869 71 66.166 80 24.702 90 27.727 50 445.725

    exhibit conspicuous clustering around e 0.80 (0.82 0.06) andi 20 (18 7). The very high mean value of the eccentricitycould be attributed, in principle, to an observational bias: for thispopulation, objects with the shortest perihelia (and, therefore, thehighest eccentricity) should be the easiest to find. The moderatelyhigh average inclination is however surprising: objects with inclina-tions close to 0 are nearly twice more likely to be found than thoseat 20 yet none has been discovered (2010 VZ98 has i = 4.51, seeTable 1). This orbital behaviour does not fit easily within the well-documented Kozai dynamics beyond Neptune (Gallardo, Hugo &Pais 2012). The orbital distributions of the known ETNOs are unlikethose of objects part of the trans-Neptunian belt as characterized bye.g. Fernandez (1980). The unexpected clustering in around 0

    but not around 180 has been tentatively associated with the Kozairesonance (Kozai 1962) by Trujillo & Sheppard (2014) and de laFuente Marcos & de la Fuente Marcos (2014b).Here, we show that the orbital evolution of the bizarre NEC

    96P/Machholz 1 may explain naturally the clustering of orbitsaround argument of perihelion close to 0 observed for ETNOsand also provide another viable dynamical evolutionary pathway toproduce retrograde NEOs. This paper is organized as follows. InSection 2, we briefly outline our numerical model. In Section 3,we review what is currently known about this object. The classi-cal dynamical evolution of comet 96P/Machholz 1 is presented inSection 4. Orbital flips, including relativistic issues, are analysed inSection 5. The relevance of our findings within the context of theETNO population is discussed in Section 6. Section 7 summarizesour conclusions.

    2 N U M E R I C A L M O D E L

    The numerical integrations of the orbits of comet 96P/Machholz 1studied here were performed with the Hermite integrator (Makino1991; Aarseth 2003), in a model Solar system which takes intoaccount the perturbations by eight major planets and treats theEarthMoon system as two separate objects; it also includes thebarycentre of the dwarf planet PlutoCharon system and the 10most massive asteroids of the main belt, namely (1) Ceres, (2)Pallas, (4) Vesta, (10) Hygiea, (31) Euphrosyne, 704 Interamnia(1910 KU), 511 Davida (1903 LU), 532 Herculina (1904 NY),(15) Eunomia and (3) Juno (for further details, see de la FuenteMarcos & de la Fuente Marcos 2012). Results in the figures havebeen obtained using initial conditions (positions and velocities inthe barycentre of the Solar system) provided by the Jet Propulsion

    Table 2. Heliocentric Keplerian orbital elements of comet 96P/Machholz1. Values include the 1 uncertainty. The orbit is computed at Epoch JD245 6541.5 that corresponds to 0:00 UT on 2013 September 6 (J2000.0ecliptic and equinox. Source: JPL Small-Body Database.)

    Semimajor axis, a (au) = 3.033 939 72 0.000 000 02Eccentricity, e = 0.959 211 83 0.000 000 05Inclination, i () = 58.312 21 0.000 04

    Longitude of the ascending node, () = 94.323 236 0.000 012Argument of perihelion, () = 14.757 75 0.000 02

    Mean anomaly, M () = 77.992 761 0.000 003Perihelion, q (au) = 0.123 748 85 0.000 000 14Aphelion, Q (au) = 5.944 130 60 0.000 000 05

    Comet total magnitude, H (mag) = 13.3

    Laboratory (JPL) HORIZONS system (Giorgini et al. 1996; Stan-dish 1998) and referred to the JD 245 7000.5 epoch which is thet = 0 instant. In addition to the calculations completed using thenominal orbital elements in Table 2, we have performed 50 controlsimulations with sets of orbital elements obtained from the nominalones within the accepted uncertainties (3 ).

    3 C O M E T 9 6 P / M AC H H O L Z 1 , B I Z A R R E F RO ME V E RY A N G L E

    Comet 96P/Machholz 1 was discovered on 1986 May 12 by D.E. Machholz observing with 29130 binoculars from Loma Pri-eta, California (Machholz, Morris & Hale 1986) and confirmedthe following days by S. Morris and A. Hale observing from nearMt Wilson, California. It was soon clear that its orbit was veryunusual, travelling closer to the Sun than any known planet, (atthat time) asteroid or comet (Green et al. 1990), and displayinghigher than expected activity at aphelion (Sekanina 1990). Withan orbital period of 5.28 yr and a perihelion, q, of just 0.12 au,its eccentricity, e, is 0.96, and its inclination, i, is significant at58.31. Its aphelion, Q, is beyond Jupiter at 5.94 au. Its currentorbit is based on 1090 observations with a data-arc span of 9642 d.Babadzhanov & Obrukov (1992), Gonczi, Rickman & Froeschle(1992), Jones & Jones (1993), Kanuchova & Neslusan (2007) andNeslusan, Kanuchova & Tomko (2013) suggested that this object isthe parent body of the Quadrantid meteors and perhaps other meteorshowers. Jenniskens et al. (1997) andWilliams & Collander-Brown(1998) considered that the Quadrantids do not originate from comet96P/Machholz 1 although it could be actively releasing meteoroids(Ohtsuka, Nakano & Yoshikawa 2003). In fact, it could be the

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  • Flipping minor bodies: comet 96P/Machholz 1 1869

    ancestor of the Marsden and Kracht groups of sunskirting comets(Sekanina &Chodas 2005). Its spectrum is very unusual (Langland-Shula & Smith 2007; Schleicher 2008). Scenarios for the origin ofthis atypical object include being an interstellar comet, formationin the outskirts of the Oort Cloud, or having a standard originbut being chemically altered due to its frequent excursions insideMercurys orbit (see e.g. Schleicher 2008). Levison&Dones (2014)have shown that 96P/Machholz 1 is trapped in a Kozai resonancewith Jupiter in which its orbital eccentricity oscillates between 0.6and almost 1.0 and its inclination varies between roughly 10 and80 (see their fig. 31.2). The value of for this comet is 14.76 andwhen its eccentricity is close to 0.85, the inclination is nearly 20

    (see fig. 31.2 in Levison & Dones 2014). These authors, as Goncziet al. (1992) and others did, predict that this comet will hit the Sunin less than 12 kyr.

    4 C O M E T 9 6 P / M AC H H O L Z 1 : O R B I TA LE VO L U T I O N

    Comet 96P/Machholz 1 is awell-studied Jupiter-family comet.Witha semimajor axis of 3.03 au, it is submitted to the 9:4 mean motionresonance with Jupiter (see i.e. Ohtsuka et al. 2003). The timeevolution of the osculating orbital elements of its nominal orbit isdisplayed in Fig. 1. We confirm that the object is currently trappedin a Kozai resonance with Jupiter. Because of this, the eccentricityand inclination oscillate with the same frequency but out of phase(see panels D and E), when the value of the eccentricity reachesits maximum the value of the inclination is the lowest and viceversa (

    1 e2 cos i = constant). In a Kozai resonance, the apse

    and the node are in resonance with one another (Kozai 1962). Thevalues of eccentricity and inclination are coupled, and the value ofthe semimajor axis remains nearly constant (see panels C, D andE in Fig. 1). The orbit of this object is particularly chaotic andit is difficult to make reliable predictions beyond a few thousandyears. All the integrated orbits give consistent results within the timeinterval (2, 6.5) kyr. Its current Kozai resonant dynamical statusis firmly established. As an example, Fig. 2 displays the short-termdynamical evolution of an orbit arbitrarily close to the nominal one(central panels) and those of two illustrative worst orbits whichare most different from the nominal one. The orbit labelled as3 (left-hand panels) has been obtained by subtracting thrice theuncertainty from the orbital parameters (the six elements) in Table 2.It has the lowest values of a, e and i at the 3 level. In contrast, theorbit labelled as +3 (right-hand panels) was computed by addingthree times the value of the uncertainty to the orbital elements inTable 2. This trajectory has the largest values of a, e and i (within3 ). Close encounters with Jupiter within the Hill radius (see panelA) are very frequent with one of the nodes usually close to Jupiter(see panel G). With this orbital layout, the object is necessarilytransient. We have neglected the role of non-gravitational forcesin our simulations because the objective of this research is not thedynamics of the comet itself but its implications for the orbitalevolution of other asteroidal bodies, NEOs and ETNOs. None ofthe control orbits computed here will drive the comet into the Sunas predicted by Levison & Dones (2014) and others. The inclusionin the calculations of (10) Hygiea, (31) Euphrosyne, 704 Interamnia(1910 KU) and 511 Davida (1903 LU) has a major impact on thesimulated evolution as the object becomes a transient, for about 1kyr, co-orb...

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