Dataset for: A Pluto-Charon Sonata IV. Improved Constraints on the Dynamical Behavior and Masses of the Small Satellites


We discuss a new set of ~ 500 numerical n-body calculations designed to constrain the masses and bulk densities of Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Comparisons of different techniques for deriving the semimajor axis and eccentricity of the four satellites favor methods relying on the theory of Lee & Peale (2006), where satellite orbits are derived in the context of the restricted three body problem (Pluto, Charon, and one massless satellite). In each simulation, we adopt the nominal satellite masses derived in Kenyon & Bromley (2019b), multiply the mass of at least one satellite by a numerical factor f >= 1, and establish whether the system ejects at least one satellite on a time scale <= 4.5~Gyr. When the total system mass is large (f >> 1), ejections of Kerberos are more common. Systems with lower satellite masses (f ~ 1) usually eject Styx. In these calculations, Styx often signals an ejection by moving to higher orbital inclination long before ejection; Kerberos rarely signals in a useful way. The n-body results suggest that Styx and Kerberos are more likely to have bulk densities comparable with water ice, rho_SK <= 2 g/cm^3, than with rock. A strong upper limit on the total system mass, M_SNKH <= 9.5 x 10^19 g, also places robust constraints on the average bulk density of the four satellites, rho_SNKH <= 1.4 g/cm^3. These limits support models where the satellites grow out of icy material ejected during a major impact on Pluto or Charon.

Last modified
  • 12/06/2023
Date created
  • United States, , United States
Resource type
  • Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)