12.3 Pluto: Lone Dog No More

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1 12.3 Pluto: Lone Dog No More Our goals for learning: How big can a comet be? What are the large objects of the Kuiper belt like? Are Pluto and Eris planets?

2 How big can a comet be?

3 Pluto s Orbit Pluto will never hit Neptune, even though their orbits cross, because of their 3:2 orbital resonance. Neptune orbits three times during the time Pluto orbits twice.

4 Is Pluto a Planet? Much smaller than the terrestrial or jovian planets Not a gas giant like other outer planets Has an icy composition like a comet Has a very elliptical, inclined orbit Has more in common with comets than with the eight major planets

5 Other Icy Bodies There are many icy objects like Pluto on elliptical, inclined orbits beyond Neptune. The largest of these, Eris, was discovered in summer 2005, and is even larger than Pluto.

6 Kuiper Belt Objects These large, icy objects have orbits similar to the smaller objects in the Kuiper belt that become short period comets. So are they very large comets or very small planets?

7 Eris s Orbit

8 Sedna s Orbit

9 What are the large objects of the Kuiper belt like? Pluto Map from Eclipse Mapping with Charon

10 What is Pluto like? Its moon Charon is nearly as large as Pluto itself (probably made by a major impact). Pluto is very cold (40 K). Pluto has a thin nitrogen atmosphere that will refreeze onto the surface as Pluto s orbit takes it farther from the Sun.

11 Hubble s View of Pluto and Its Moons

12 Other Kuiper Belt Objects Most have been discovered very recently so little is known about them. NASA s New Horizons mission will study Pluto and a few other Kuiper belt object in a planned flyby.

13 New Horizons: Half way there!

14 Are Pluto and Eris planets?

15 Pluto and Eris Pluto s size was overestimated after its discovery in 1930, and nothing of similar size was discovered for several decades. Now other large objects have been discovered in Kuiper belt, including Eris. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) now classifies Pluto and Eris as dwarf planets. Dwarf planets have not cleared most other objects from their orbital paths.

16 What have we learned? How big can a comet be? The Kuiper belt from which comets come contains objects as large as Pluto. What are the large objects of the Kuiper belt like? Large objects in the Kuiper belt have orbits and icy compositions like those of comets. Are Pluto and Eris planets? While the IAU considers Pluto and Eris to be dwarf planets, the topic is still under debate.

17 12.4 Cosmic Collisions: Small Bodies Versus the Planets Our goals for learning: Have we ever witnessed a major impact? Did an impact kill the dinosaurs? Is the impact threat a real danger or media hype? How do the jovian planets affect impact rates and life on Earth?

18 Have we ever witnessed a major impact?

19 Comet SL9 caused a string of violent impacts on Jupiter in 1994, reminding us that catastrophic collisions still happen. Tidal forces tore it apart during a previous encounter with Jupiter.

20 An impact plume from a fragment of comet SL9 rises high above Jupiter s surface.

21 Dusty debris at an impact site

22 Artist s conception of SL9 impact

23 Several impact sites

24 Impact sites in infrared light

25 Another Impact: July 20, 2009 Found by an Australian amateur astronomer, who alerted the world

26 Did an impact kill the dinosaurs?

27 Mass Extinctions Fossil record shows occasional large dips in the diversity of species: mass extinctions. Most recent was 65 million years ago, ending the reign of the dinosaurs.

28 Iridium: Evidence of an Impact Iridium is very rare in Earth surface rocks but often found in meteorites. Luis and Walter Alvarez found a worldwide layer containing iridium, laid down 65 million years ago, probably by a meteorite impact. Dinosaur fossils all lie below this layer.

29 Iridium Layer No dinosaur fossils in upper rock layers Thin layer containing the rare element iridium Dinosaur fossils in lower rock layers

30 Consequences of an Impact Meteorite 10 kilometers in size would send large amounts of debris into atmosphere. Vaporization of debris could have caused global wildfires Debris would reduce sunlight reaching Earth s surface. Resulting climate change may have caused mass extinction.

31 Likely Impact Site Geologists have found a large subsurface crater about 65 million years old in Mexico.

32 A comet or asteroid about 10 kilometers in diameter approaches Earth.

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34

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37 Is the impact threat a real danger or media hype?

38 Facts about Impacts Asteroids and comets have hit Earth. A major impact is only a matter of time: not IF but WHEN. Major impacts are very rare. Extinction level events happen millions of years apart. Major damage happen tens to hundreds of years apart.

39 Tunguska, Siberia: June 30, 1908 A ~40-meter object disintegrated and exploded in the atmosphere. Blast knocked people over 200 km away

40 Meteor Crater, Arizona: 50,000 years ago (50-meter object)

41 Frequency of Impacts Small impacts happen almost daily. Impacts large enough to cause mass extinctions happen many millions of years apart.

42 The asteroid with our name on it We haven t seen it yet. Deflection is more probable with years of advance warning. Control is critical: Breaking a big asteroid into a bunch of little asteroids is unlikely to help. We get less advance warning of a killer comet.

43 What are we doing about it? Stay tuned to

44 How do the jovian planets affect impact rates and life on Earth?

45 Influence of the Jovian Planets Gravity of a jovian planet (especially Jupiter) can redirect a comet.

46 Influence of Jovian Planets Jupiter has directed some comets toward Earth but has ejected many more into the Oort cloud.

47 Was Jupiter necessary for life on Earth? Impacts can extinguish life. But were they necessary for life as we know it?

48 What have we learned? Have we ever witnessed a major impact? The most recent major impact happened in 1994, when fragments of comet SL9 hit Jupiter. Did an impact kill the dinosaurs? Iridium layer just above dinosaur fossils suggests that an impact caused mass extinction 65 million years ago. A large crater of that age has been found in Mexico.

49 What have we learned? Is the impact threat a real danger or media hype? Large impacts do happen, but they are rare. They cause major extinctions about every 100 million years. How do the jovian planets affect impact rates and life on Earth? Jovian planets sometimes deflect comets toward Earth but send many more out to Oort cloud.

50 Chapter 13 Other Planetary Systems: The New Science of Distant Worlds

51 13.1 Detecting Extrasolar Planets Our goals for learning: Why is it so difficult to detect planets around other stars? How do we detect planets around other stars?

52 Why is it so difficult to detect planets around other stars?

53 Brightness Difference A Sun-like star is about a billion times brighter than the light reflected from its planets. Also the angular separation is tiny the planet and star are very close together This is like being in San Francisco and trying to see a pinhead 15 meters from a grapefruit in Washington, D.C.

54 Special Topic: How Did We Learn That Other Stars Are Suns? Ancient observers didn t think stars were like the Sun because Sun is so much brighter. Christian Huygens ( ) used holes drilled in a brass plate to estimate the angular sizes of stars. His results showed that, if stars were like Sun, they must be at great distances, consistent with the lack of observed parallax.

55 How do we detect planets around other stars?

56 Planet Detection Direct: pictures or spectra of the planets themselves Indirect: measurements of stellar properties revealing the effects of orbiting planets (this method is much further along)

57 Gravitational Tugs The Sun and Jupiter orbit around their common center of mass. The Sun therefore wobbles around that center of mass with same period as Jupiter.

58 Gravitational Tugs The Sun s motion around the solar system s center of mass depends on tugs from all the planets. Astronomers around other stars that measured this motion could determine the masses and orbits of all the planets.

59 Astrometric Technique We can detect planets by measuring the change in a star s position on sky. However, these tiny motions are very difficult to measure (~ arcsecond) Has never been done successfully

60 Doppler Technique Measuring a star s Doppler shift can tell us its motion toward and away from us. Current techniques can measure motions as small as 1 m/s (walking speed!).

61 First Extrasolar Planet Insert TCP 6e Figure 13.4a unannotated Doppler shifts of the star 51 Pegasi indirectly revealed a planet with 4- day orbital period. This short period means that the planet has a small orbital distance. This was the first extrasolar planet to be discovered (1995).

62 First Extrasolar Planet Insert TCP 6e Figure 13.4b The planet around 51 Pegasi has a mass similar to Jupiter s, despite its small orbital distance.

63 Other Extrasolar Planets Doppler shift data tell us about a planet s mass and the shape of its orbit.

64 Multi-planet systems can get very complicated

65 Planet Mass and Orbit Tilt We cannot measure an exact mass for a planet without knowing the tilt of its orbit, because Doppler shift tells us only the velocity toward or away from us. Doppler data give us lower limits on masses.

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