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A new inclination instability reshapes Keplerian discs into cones: application to the outer Solar system
Madigan, Ann-Marie; McCourt, Michael
AA(Astronomy Department and Theoretical Astrophysics Center, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA ), AB(Institute for Theory and Computation, Harvard University, Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden St, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA)
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters, Volume 457, Issue 1, p.L89-L93 (MNRAS Homepage)
Publication Date:
Astronomy Keywords:
celestial mechanics, minor planets, asteroids: general, planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability, stars: kinematics and dynamics
Abstract Copyright:
2016 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society
Bibliographic Code:


Discs of bodies orbiting a much more massive central object are extremely common in astrophysics. When the orbits comprising such discs are eccentric, we show they are susceptible to a new dynamical instability. Gravitational forces between bodies in the disc drive exponential growth of their orbital inclinations and clustering in their angles of pericentre, expanding an initially thin disc into a conical shape by giving each orbit an identical `tilt' with respect to the disc plane. This new instability dynamically produces the unusual distribution of orbits observed for minor planets beyond Neptune, suggesting that the instability has shaped the outer Solar system. It also implies a large disc mass (˜ 1-10 Earth masses) of scattered bodies at hundreds of AU; we predict increasing numbers of detections of minor planets clustered in their angles of pericentre with high inclinations.
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