Impact modeling of Kuiper Belt objects
Thompson, Christopher T.
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The solar system's Kuiper belt is likely to contain many objects similar in size to Pluto. Pluto's composition, based on its mean density (2030 kg/m3), is 60% rock and 40% ice. This composition is notably more rich in rock than typical outer solar system satellites, which have rock fractions of 40%. This work investigates the possibility that devolatilization (the removal of ice) of typical Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) may occur as a byproduct of large impacts. Our target KBO is represented as an object with a 40% rock mass fraction. The impactor is a cometary object composed entirely of ice. We model the collision of the target with a series of impactors, varying the impactor's size and angle. These impacts are simulated using a three-dimensional smoothed-particle hydrodynamics (SPH) code. For each impact, we analyze the fraction of ice thrown off from the target. The impact speed is the escape speed of the target object (-1.5 km/s). Our simulations will constrain the cricital impactor size and impact angle ranges required to increase the final rock mass fraction of the target to the 60% value observed for Pluto.
Pluto (Dwarf planet)