Scientists offer a new explanation for a mystery surrounding Jupiter's two massive asteroid swarms

Scientists offer a new explanation for a mystery surrounding Jupiter’s two massive asteroid swarms

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

An international team of scientists, including NYU Abu Dhabi researcher Nikolaos Georgakarakos and others from the US, Japan and China, led by Jian Li of Nanjing University, has developed new insights that could explain the numerical asymmetry of Jupiter’s L4 and L5 Trojan swarms . , two groups containing more than 10,000 asteroids that move along Jupiter’s orbital path around the Sun.

For decades, scientists have known that there are many more asteroids in the L4 cluster than the L5 cluster, but they haven’t fully understood the reason for this asymmetry. In the current configuration of the solar system, the two clusters exhibit nearly identical dynamical stability and survival properties, leading scientists to believe that the differences arose earlier in the life of our solar system. Determining the cause of these differences could reveal new details about the formation and evolution of the solar system.

In the paper, “Asymmetry in the Number of L4 and L5 Jupiter Trojans Driven by Jumping Jupiter,” published in the journal Astronomy and astrophysicsthe researchers present a mechanism that may explain the observed number asymmetry.

“We propose that a rapid outward migration—in terms of distance to the Sun—of Jupiter may distort the configuration of the Trojan clusters, resulting in more stable orbits in the L4 cluster than in the L5 cluster,” Li said.

“This mechanism, which temporarily induced different evolutionary paths for the two groups of asteroids that share Jupiter’s orbit, provides a new and natural explanation for the unbiased observation that L4 asteroids are about 1.6 times more numerous than cluster asteroids L5. ”

The model simulates the orbital evolution of Jupiter, caused by a planetary orbital instability in the early solar system. This caused Jupiter to migrate outwards at a very high speed; a migration that researchers hypothesize was the possible cause of changes in the stability of nearby asteroid swarms. Future models could extend this work by including additional aspects of the evolution of the solar system, which could describe it with improved accuracy. This could include simulating the rapid migrations of Jupiter at different speeds and the effects of nearby planets.

“The characteristics of the present solar system hold still unsolved mysteries in its formation and early evolution,” Georgakarakos said.

“The ability to successfully simulate an event from an early stage of solar system development and apply these results to modern questions may also be a key tool as astrophysicists and other researchers work to learn more about the dawn our world.”

More information:
Jian Li et al., Asymmetry in the Number of L4 and L5 Jupiter Trojans Driven by Jumping Jupiter, Astronomy and astrophysics (2022). DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/202244443

Provided by New York University

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