Posts Tagged solar system

Recent Postings from solar system

Formation, Habitability, and Detection of Extrasolar Moons

The diversity and quantity of moons in the Solar System suggest a manifold population of natural satellites exist around extrasolar planets. Of peculiar interest from an astrobiological perspective, the number of sizable moons in the stellar habitable zones may outnumber planets in these circumstellar regions. With technological and theoretical methods now allowing for the detection of sub-Earth-sized extrasolar planets, the first detection of an extrasolar moon appears feasible. In this review, we summarize formation channels of massive exomoons that are potentially detectable with current or near-future instruments. We discuss the orbital effects that govern exomoon evolution, we present a framework to characterize an exomoon’s stellar plus planetary illumination as well as its tidal heating, and we address the techniques that have been proposed to search for exomoons. Most notably, we show that natural satellites in the range of 0.1 – 0.5 Earth mass (i) are potentially habitable, (ii) can form within the circumplanetary debris and gas disk or via capture from a binary, and (iii) are detectable with current technology.

Separating gas-giant and ice-giant planets by halting pebble accretion

In the Solar System giant planets come in two flavours: ‘gas giants’ (Jupiter and Saturn) with massive gas envelopes and ‘ice giants’ (Uranus and Neptune) with much thinner envelopes around their cores. It is poorly understood how these two classes of planets formed. High solid accretion rates, necessary to form the cores of giant planets within the life-time of protoplanetary discs, heat the envelope and prevent rapid gas contraction onto the core, unless accretion is halted. We find that, in fact, accretion of pebbles (~ cm-sized particles) is self-limiting: when a core becomes massive enough it carves a gap in the pebble disc. This halt in pebble accretion subsequently triggers the rapid collapse of the super-critical gas envelope. As opposed to gas giants, ice giants do not reach this threshold mass and can only bind low-mass envelopes that are highly enriched by water vapour from sublimated icy pebbles. This offers an explanation for the compositional difference between gas giants and ice giants in the Solar System. Furthermore, as opposed to planetesimal-driven accretion scenarios, our model allows core formation and envelope attraction within disc life-times, provided that solids in protoplanetary discs are predominantly in pebbles. Our results imply that the outer regions of planetary systems, where the mass required to halt pebble accretion is large, are dominated by ice giants and that gas-giant exoplanets in wide orbits are enriched by more than 50 Earth masses of solids.

Interpreting the extended emission around three nearby debris disc host stars

Cool debris discs are a relic of the planetesimal formation process around their host star, analogous to the solar system’s Edgeworth-Kuiper belt. As such, they can be used as a proxy to probe the origin and formation of planetary systems like our own. The Herschel Open Time Key Programmes "DUst around NEarby Stars" (DUNES) and "Disc Emission via a Bias-free Reconnaissance in the Infrared/Submillimetre" (DEBRIS) observed many nearby, sun-like stars at far-infrared wavelengths seeking to detect and characterize the emission from their circumstellar dust. Excess emission attributable to the presence of dust was identified from around $\sim$ 20% of stars. Herschel’s high angular resolution ($\sim$ 7" FWHM at 100 $\mu$m) provided the capacity for resolving debris belts around nearby stars with radial extents comparable to the solar system (50 to 100 au). As part of the DUNES and DEBRIS surveys, we obtained observations of three debris disc stars, HIP 22263 (HD 30495), HIP 62207 (HD 110897), and HIP 72848 (HD 131511), at far-infrared wavelengths with the Herschel PACS instrument. Combining these new images and photometry with ancilliary data from the literature, we undertook simultaneous multi-wavelength modelling of the discs’ radial profiles and spectral energy distributions using three different methodologies: single annulus, modified black body, and a radiative transfer code. We present the first far-infrared spatially resolved images of these discs and new single-component debris disc models. We characterize the capacity of the models to reproduce the disc parameters based on marginally resolved emission through analysis of two sets of simulated systems (based on the HIP 22263 and HIP 62207 data) with the noise levels typical of the Herschel images. We find that the input parameter values are recovered well at noise levels attained in the observations presented here.

Main-belt comets as tracers of ice in the inner Solar system

As a recently recognized class of objects exhibiting apparently cometary (sublimation-driven) activity yet orbiting completely within the main asteroid belt, main-belt comets (MBCs) have revealed the existence of present-day ice in small bodies in the inner solar system and offer an opportunity to better understand the thermal and compositional history of our solar system, and by extension, those of other planetary systems as well. Achieving these overall goals, however, will require meeting various intermediate research objectives, including discovering many more MBCs than the currently known seven objects in order to ascertain the population’s true abundance and distribution, confirming that water ice sublimation is in fact the driver of activity in these objects, and improving our understanding of the physical, dynamical, and thermal evolutionary processes that have acted on this population over the age of the solar system.

Selecting asteroids for a targeted spectroscopic survey

Asteroid spectroscopy reflects surface mineralogy. There are few thousand asteroids whose surfaces have been observed spectrally. Determining the surface properties of those objects is important for many practical and scientific applications, such as for example developing impact deflection strategies or studying history and evolution of the Solar System and planet formation. The aim of this study is to develop a pre-selection method that can be utilized in searching for asteroids of any taxonomic complex. The method could then be utilized im multiple applications such as searching for the missing V-types or looking for primitive asteroids. We used the Bayes Naive Classifier combined with observations obtained in the course of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer surveys as well as a database of asteroid phase curves for asteroids with known taxonomic type. Using the new classification method we have selected a number of possible V-type candidates. Some of the candidates were than spectrally observed at the Nordic Optical Telescope and South African Large Telescope. We have developed and tested the new pre-selection method. We found three asteroids in the mid/outer Main Belt that are likely of differentiated type. Near-Infrared are still required to confirm this discovery. Similarly to other studies we found that V-type candidates cluster around the Vesta family and are rare in the mid/oter Main Belt. The new method shows that even largely explored large databases combined together could still be further exploited in for example solving the missing dunite problem.

Cool Stars and Space Weather

Stellar flares, winds and coronal mass ejections form the space weather. They are signatures of the magnetic activity of cool stars and, since activity varies with age, mass and rotation, the space weather that extra-solar planets experience can be very different from the one encountered by the solar system planets. How do stellar activity and magnetism influence the space weather of exoplanets orbiting main-sequence stars? How do the environments surrounding exoplanets differ from those around the planets in our own solar system? How can the detailed knowledge acquired by the solar system community be applied in exoplanetary systems? How does space weather affect habitability? These were questions that were addressed in the splinter session "Cool stars and Space Weather", that took place on 9 Jun 2014, during the Cool Stars 18 meeting. In this paper, we present a summary of the contributions made to this session.

The role of impact and radiogenic heating in the early thermal evolution of Mars

The planetary differentiation models of Mars are proposed that take into account core-mantle and core-mantle-crust differentiation. The numerical simulations are presented for the early thermal evolution of Mars spanning up to the initial 25 million years (Ma) of the early solar system, probably for the first time, by taking into account the radiogenic heating due to the short-lived nuclides, 26Al and 60Fe. The influence of impact heating during the accretion of Mars is also incorporated in the simulations. The early accretion of Mars would necessitate a substantial role played by the short-lived nuclides in its heating. 26Al along with impact heating could have provided sufficient thermal energy to the entire body to substantially melt and trigger planetary scale differentiation. This is contrary to the thermal models based exclusively on the impact heating that could not produce widespread melting and planetary differentiation. The early onset of the accretion of Mars perhaps within the initial ~1.5 Ma in the early solar system could have resulted in substantial differentiation of Mars provide it accreted over the timescale of ~1 Ma. This seems to be consistent with the chronological records of the Martian meteorites.

The role of impact and radiogenic heating in the early thermal evolution of Mars [Replacement]

The planetary differentiation models of Mars are proposed that take into account core-mantle and core-mantle-crust differentiation. The numerical simulations are presented for the early thermal evolution of Mars spanning up to the initial 25 million years (Ma) of the early solar system, probably for the first time, by taking into account the radiogenic heating due to the short-lived nuclides, 26Al and 60Fe. The influence of impact heating during the accretion of Mars is also incorporated in the simulations. The early accretion of Mars would necessitate a substantial role played by the short-lived nuclides in its heating. 26Al along with impact heating could have provided sufficient thermal energy to the entire body to substantially melt and trigger planetary scale differentiation. This is contrary to the thermal models based exclusively on the impact heating that could not produce widespread melting and planetary differentiation. The early onset of the accretion of Mars perhaps within the initial ~1.5 Ma in the early solar system could have resulted in substantial differentiation of Mars provide it accreted over the timescale of ~1 Ma. This seems to be consistent with the chronological records of the Martian meteorites.

Solar system and small-field astrometry

Astrometric issues for future solar system studies are discussed. An overview gives references and cover all aspects of the solar system where astrometry is important: orbits of planets, moons, asteroids and NEOs, masses of asteroids, occultations of asteroids and KBOs, and families of asteroids and KBOs. The roles of astrometry from the ground, from Gaia and from a Gaia successor are discussed. It appears from work with CCD cameras at the 1.55 m astrometric reflector in Flagstaff that an accuracy of 1 mas is the best possible from the ground during one night observing when using ordinary telescopes, i.e. without wave-front correctors, and for field sizes larger than 2 arcmin. It has been seen that the same accuracies can be reached with the much larger 4-m class telescope on Hawaii although it is not specifically designed for astrometry.

The Debris Disk of Solar Analogue $\tau$ Ceti: Herschel Observations and Dynamical Simulations of the Proposed Multiplanet System

$\tau$ Ceti is a nearby, mature G-type star very similar to our Sun, with a massive Kuiper Belt analogue (Greaves et al. 2004) and possible multiplanet system (Tuomi et al. 2013) that has been compared to our Solar System. We present Herschel Space Observatory images of the debris disk, finding the disk is resolved at 70 and 160 microns, and marginally resolved at 250 microns. The Herschel images and infrared photometry from the literature are best modelled using a wide dust annulus with an inner edge between 1-10 AU and an outer edge at ~55 AU, inclined from face-on by 35$\pm$10 degrees, and with no significant azimuthal structure. We model the proposed tightly-packed planetary system of five super-Earths and find that the innermost dynamically stable disk orbits are consistent with the inner edge found by the observations. The photometric modelling, however, cannot rule out a disk inner edge as close to the star as 1 AU, though larger distances produce a better fit to the data. Dynamical modelling shows that the 5 planet system is stable with the addition of a Neptune or smaller mass planet on an orbit outside 5 AU, where the Tuomi et al. analysis would not have detected a planet of this mass.

Solar System evolution from compositional mapping of the asteroid belt

Advances in the discovery and characterization of asteroids over the past decade have revealed an unanticipated underlying structure that points to a dramatic early history of the inner Solar System. The asteroids in the main asteroid belt have been discovered to be more compositionally diverse with size and distance from the Sun than had previously been known. This implies substantial mixing through processes such as planetary migration and the subsequent dynamical processes.

Lunar Exploration: Opening a Window into the History and Evolution of the Inner Solar System

The lunar geological record contains a rich archive of the history of the inner Solar System, including information relevant to understanding the origin and evolution of the Earth-Moon system, the geological evolution of rocky planets, and our local cosmic environment. This paper provides a brief review of lunar exploration to-date, and describes how future exploration initiatives will further advance our understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon, the Earth-Moon system, and of the Solar System more generally. It is concluded that further advances will require the placing of new scientific instruments on, and the return of additional samples from, the lunar surface. Some of these scientific objectives can be achieved robotically, for example by in situ geochemical and geophysical measurements and through carefully targeted sample return missions. However, in the longer term, we argue that lunar science would greatly benefit from renewed human operations on the surface of the Moon, such as would be facilitated by implementing the recently proposed Global Exploration Roadmap.

Stellar origin of the 182Hf cosmochronometer and the presolar history of solar system matter

Among the short-lived radioactive nuclei inferred to be present in the early solar system via meteoritic analyses, there are several heavier than iron whose stellar origin has been poorly understood. In particular, the abundances inferred for 182Hf (half-life = 8.9 million years) and 129I (half-life = 15.7 million years) are in disagreement with each other if both nuclei are produced by the rapid neutron-capture process. Here, we demonstrate that contrary to previous assumption, the slow neutron-capture process in asymptotic giant branch stars produces 182Hf. This has allowed us to date the last rapid and slow neutron-capture events that contaminated the solar system material at roughly 100 million years and 30 million years, respectively, before the formation of the Sun.

Gravitational radiation from compact binaries in scalar-tensor gravity

General relativity (GR) has been extensively tested in the solar system and in binary pulsars, but never in the strong-field, dynamical regime. Soon, gravitational-wave (GW) detectors like Advanced LIGO and eLISA will be able to probe this regime by measuring GWs from inspiraling and merging compact binaries. One particularly interesting alternative to GR is scalar-tensor gravity. We present progress in the calculation of second post-Newtonian (2PN) gravitational waveforms for inspiraling compact binaries in a general class of scalar-tensor theories. The waveforms are constructed using a standard GR method known as "direct integration of the relaxed Einstein equations," appropriately adapted to the scalar-tensor case. We find that differences from general relativity can be characterized by a reasonably small number of parameters. Among the differences are new hereditary terms which depend on the past history of the source. In one special case, binary black hole systems, we find that the waveform is indistinguishable from that of general relativity. In another, mixed black hole-neutron star systems, all differences from GR can be characterized by only a single parameter.

Misaligned Protoplanetary Disks in a Young Binary System

Many extrasolar planets follow orbits that differ from the nearly coplanar and circular orbits found in our solar system; orbits may be eccentric or inclined with respect to the host star’s equator, and the population of giant planets orbiting close to their host stars suggests significant orbital migration. There is currently no consensus on what produces such orbits. Theoretical explanations often invoke interactions with a binary companion star on an orbit that is inclined relative to the planet’s orbital plane. Such mechanisms require significant mutual inclinations between planetary and binary star orbital planes. The protoplanetary disks in a few young binaries are misaligned, but these measurements are sensitive only to a small portion of the inner disk, and the three-dimensional misalignment of the bulk of the planet-forming disk mass has hitherto not been determined. Here we report that the protoplanetary disks in the young binary system HK Tau are misaligned by 60{\deg}-68{\deg}, so one or both disks are significantly inclined to the binary orbital plane. Our results demonstrate that the necessary conditions exist for misalignment-driven mechanisms to modify planetary orbits, and that these conditions are present at the time of planet formation, apparently due to the binary formation process.

Local gravitational physics of the Hubble expansion

We study physical consequences of the Hubble expansion of FLRW manifold on measurement of space, time and light propagation in the local inertial frame. We analyse the solar system radar ranging and Doppler tracking experiments, and time synchronization. FLRW manifold is covered by global coordinates (t,y^i), where t is the cosmic time coinciding with the proper time of the Hubble observers. We introduce local inertial coordinates x^a=(x^0,x^i) in the vicinity of a world line of a Hubble observer with the help of a special conformal transformation. The local inertial metric is Minkowski flat and is materialized by the congruence of time-like geodesics of static observers being at rest with respect to the local spatial coordinates x^i. We consider geodesic motion of test particles and notice that the local coordinate time x^0=x^0(t) taken as a parameter along the world line of particle, is a function of the Hubble’s observer time t. This function changes smoothly from x^0=t for a particle at rest (observer’s clock), to x^0=t+1/2 Ht^2 for photons, where H is the Hubble constant. Thus, motion of a test particle is non-uniform when its world line is parametrized by time t. NASA JPL Orbit Determination Program presumes that motion of light (after the Shapiro delay is excluded) is uniform with respect to the time t but it does not comply with the non-uniform motion of light on cosmological manifold. For this reason, the motion of light in the solar system analysed with the Orbit Determination Program appears as having a systematic blue shift of frequency, of radio waves circulating in the Earth-spacecraft radio link. The magnitude of the anomalous blue shift of frequency is proportional to the Hubble constant H that may open an access to the measurement of this fundamental cosmological parameter in the solar system radiowave experiments.

The odd couple: quasars and black holes

Quasars emit more energy than any other objects in the universe, yet are not much bigger than the solar system. We are almost certain that quasars are powered by giant black holes of up to $10^{10}$ times the mass of the Sun, and that black holes of between $10^6$ and $10^{10}$ solar masses—dead quasars—are present at the centers of most galaxies. Our own galaxy contains a black hole of $4.3\times10^6$ solar masses. The mass of the central black hole appears to be closely related to other properties of its host galaxy, such as the total mass in stars, but the origin of this relation and the role that black holes play in the formation of galaxies are still mysteries.

H2O abundances in the atmospheres of three hot Jupiters

The core accretion theory for giant planet formation predicts enrichment of elemental abundances in planetary envelopes caused by runaway accretion of planetesimals, which is consistent with measured super-solar abundances of C, N, P, S, Xe, and Ar in Jupiter’s atmosphere. However, the abundance of O which is expected to be the most dominant constituent of planetesimals is unknown for solar system giant planets, owing to the condensation of water in their ultra-cold atmospheres, thereby posing a key unknown in solar system formation. On the other hand, hundreds of extrasolar hot Jupiters are known with very high temperatures (>~1000 K) making them excellent targets to measure H2O abundances and, hence, oxygen in their atmospheres. We constrain the atmospheric H2O abundances in three hot Jupiters (HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b), spanning a wide temperature range (1200-2500 K), using their near-infrared transmission spectra obtained using the HST WFC3 instrument. We report conclusive measurements of H2O in HD 189733b and HD 209458b, while that in WASP-12b is not well constrained by present data. The data allow nearly solar as well as significantly sub-solar abundances in HD 189733b and WASP-12b. However, for HD 209458b, we report the most precise H2O measurement in an exoplanet to date that suggests a ~20-135 sub-solar H2O abundance. We discuss the implications of our results on the formation conditions of hot Jupiters and on the likelihood of clouds in their atmospheres. Our results highlight the critical importance of high-precision spectra of hot Jupiters for deriving their H2O abundances.

A Pilot Search for Evidence of Extrasolar Earth-analog Plate Tectonics

Relative to calcium, both strontium and barium are markedly enriched in Earth’s continental crust compared to the basaltic crusts of other differentiated rocky bodies within the solar system. Here, we both re-examine available archived Keck spectra to place upper bounds on n(Ba)/n(Ca) and revisit published results for n(Sr)/n(Ca) in two white dwarfs that have accreted rocky planetesimals. We find that at most only a small fraction of the pollution is from crustal material that has experienced the distinctive elemental enhancements induced by Earth-analog plate tectonics. In view of the intense theoretical interest in the physical structure of extrasolar rocky planets, this search should be extended to additional targets.

Testing a recently proposed scenario for a transplutonian planetoid with the EPM2013 planetary ephemerides [Replacement]

By means of the orbital dynamics of the known Sun’s outer planets, we use the just released EPM2013 planetary ephemerides to put on the test the recently proposed hypothesis that one (or more) still unseen super-Earth(s) may lurk at about $200-250$ astronomical units in the outskirts of the Solar system. Even by conservatively rescaling by a factor of ten the EPM2013 formal uncertainties in the orbital elements of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto over a century (1913-2013), it turns out that their numerically simulated centennial signatures due to a distant perturber 15 times more massive than the Earth located at about 200 astronomical units in an almost circular and ecliptical orbit are far larger, thus making its existence highly unlikely. A careful analysis of the full parameter space of the hypothesized rock-ice planetoid further confirms such a conclusion. Moreover, it turns out that such a body could not exist at less than about $1100-1300$ astronomical units, thus tightening the previous constraints published in the literature and further justifying the name of Telisto for it.

Testing a recently proposed scenario for a transplutonian planetoid with the EPM2013 planetary ephemerides [Replacement]

By means of the orbital dynamics of the known Sun’s outer planets, we use the just released EPM2013 planetary ephemerides to put on the test the recently proposed hypothesis that one (or more) still unseen super-Earth(s) may lurk at about $200-250$ astronomical units in the outskirts of the Solar system. Even by conservatively rescaling by a factor of ten the EPM2013 formal uncertainties in the orbital elements of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto over a century (1913-2013), it turns out that their numerically simulated centennial signatures due to a distant perturber 15 times more massive than the Earth located at about 200 astronomical units in an almost circular and ecliptical orbit are far larger, thus making its existence highly unlikely. A careful analysis of the full parameter space of the hypothesized rock-ice planetoid further confirms such a conclusion. Moreover, it turns out that such a body could not exist at less than about $1100-1300$ astronomical units, thus tightening the previous constraints published in the literature and further justifying the name of Telisto for it.

The inner solar system cratering record and the evolution of impactor populations

We review previously published and newly obtained crater size-frequency distributions in the inner solar system. These data indicate that the Moon and the terrestrial planets have been bombarded by two populations of objects. Population 1, dominating at early times, had nearly the same size distribution as the present-day asteroid belt, and produced the heavily cratered surfaces with a complex, multi-sloped crater size-frequency distribution. Population 2, dominating since about 3.8-3.7 Ga, has the same size distribution as near-Earth objects (NEOs), had a much lower impact flux, and produced a crater size distribution characterized by a differential -3 single-slope power law in the crater diameter range 0.02 km to 100 km. Taken together with the results from a large body of work on age-dating of lunar and meteorite samples and theoretical work in solar system dynamics, a plausible interpretation of these data is as follows. The NEO population is the source of Population 2 and it has been in near-steady state over the past ~3.7-3.8 gigayears; these objects are derived from the main asteroid belt by size-dependent non-gravitational effects that favor the ejection of smaller asteroids. However, Population 1 were main belt asteroids ejected from their source region in a size-independent manner, possibly by means of gravitational resonance sweeping during giant planet orbit migration; this caused the so-called Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB). The LHB began some time before ~3.9 Ga, peaked and declined rapidly over the next ~100 to 300 megayears, and possibly more slowly from about 3.8-3.7 Ga to ~2 Ga. A third crater population (Population S) consists of secondary impact craters that can dominate the cratering record at small diameters.

Meteoroid impacts onto asteroids: a competitor for Yarkovsky and YORP

<Abridged> The impact of a meteoroid onto an asteroid transfers linear and angular momentum to the larger body, which may affect its orbit and its rotational state. Here we show that the meteoroid environment of our Solar System can have an effect on small asteroids that is comparable to the Yarkovsky and Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effects under certain conditions. The momentum content of the meteoroids themselves is expected to generate an effect much smaller than that of the Yarkovsky effect. However, momentum transport by ejecta may increase the net effective force by two orders of magnitude for impacts into bare rock surfaces. This result is sensitive to the extrapolation of laboratory microcratering experiment results to real meteoroid-asteroid collisions and needs further study. If this extrapolation holds, then meteoroid impacts are more important to the dynamics of small asteroids than had previously been considered.

Constraining the Cratering Chronology of Vesta

Vesta has a complex cratering history, with ancient terrains as well as recent large impacts that have led to regional resurfacing. Crater counts can help constrain the relative ages of different units on Vesta’s surface, but converting those crater counts to absolute ages requires a chronology function. We present a cratering chronology based on the best current models for the dynamical evolution of asteroid belt, and calibrate it to Vesta using the record of large craters on its surface. While uncertainties remain, our chronology function is broadly consistent with an ancient surface of Vesta as well as other constraints such as the bombardment history of the rest of the inner Solar System and the Ar-Ar age distribution of howardite, eucrite and diogenite (HED) meteorites from Vesta.

Water Delivery and Giant Impacts in the 'Grand Tack' Scenario

A new model for terrestrial planet formation (Hansen 2009, Walsh et al. 2011) has explored accretion in a truncated protoplanetary disk, and found that such a configuration is able to reproduce the distribution of mass among the planets in the Solar System, especially the Earth/Mars mass ratio, which earlier simulations have generally not been able to match. Walsh et al. tested a possible mechanism to truncate the disk–a two-stage, inward-then-outward migration of Jupiter and Saturn, as found in numerous hydrodynamical simulations of giant planet formation. In addition to truncating the disk and producing a more realistic Earth/Mars mass ratio, the migration of the giant planets also populates the asteroid belt with two distinct populations of bodies–the inner belt is filled by bodies originating inside of 3 AU, and the outer belt is filled with bodies originating from between and beyond the giant planets (which are hereafter referred to as `primitive’ bodies). We find here that the planets will accrete on order 1-2% of their total mass from primitive planetesimals scattered onto planet-crossing orbits during the formation of the planets. For an assumed value of 10% for the water mass fraction of the primitive planetesimals, this model delivers a total amount of water comparable to that estimated to be on the Earth today. While the radial distribution of the planetary masses and the dynamical excitation of their orbits are a good match to the observed system, we find that the last giant impact is typically earlier than 20 Myr, and a substantial amount of mass is accreted after that event. However, 5 of the 27 planets larger than half an Earth mass formed in all simulations do experience large late impacts and subsequent accretion consistent with the dating of the Moon-forming impact and the estimated amount of mass accreted by Earth following that event.

The InfraRed Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) for TMT: Overview of innovative science programs

IRIS (InfraRed Imaging Spectrograph) is a first light near-infrared diffraction limited imager and integral field spectrograph being designed for the future Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). IRIS is optimized to perform astronomical studies across a significant fraction of cosmic time, from our Solar System to distant newly formed galaxies (Barton et al. [1]). We present a selection of the innovative science cases that are unique to IRIS in the era of upcoming space and ground-based telescopes. We focus on integral field spectroscopy of directly imaged exoplanet atmospheres, probing fundamental physics in the Galactic Center, measuring 10^4 to 10^10 Msun supermassive black hole masses, resolved spectroscopy of young star-forming galaxies (1 < z < 5) and first light galaxies (6 < z < 12), and resolved spectroscopy of strong gravitational lensed sources to measure dark matter substructure. For each of these science cases we use the IRIS simulator (Wright et al. [2], Do et al. [3]) to explore IRIS capabilities. To highlight the unique IRIS capabilities, we also update the point and resolved source sensitivities for the integral field spectrograph (IFS) in all five broadband filters (Z, Y, J, H, K) for the finest spatial scale of 0.004" per spaxel. We briefly discuss future development plans for the data reduction pipeline and quicklook software for the IRIS instrument suite.

A Nonminimal Coupling Model and its Short-Range Solar System Impact

The objective of this work is to present the effects of a nonminimally coupled model of gravity on a Solar System short range regime. For this reason, this study is only valid when the cosmological contribution is considered irrelevant. The action functional of the model involves two functions $f^1(R)$ and $f^2(R)$ of the Ricci scalar curvature $R$, where the last one multiplies the matter Lagrangian. Using a Taylor expansion around $R=0$ for both functions $f^1(R)$ and $f^2(R)$, it was found that the metric around a spherical object is a perturbation of the weak-field Schwarzschild metric. The $tt$ component of the metric, a Newtonian plus a Yukawa perturbation term, is constrained using the available observational results. First it is shown that this effect is null when the characteristic mass scales of each function $f^1(R)$ and $f^2(R)$ are identical. Besides, the conclusion is that the nonminimal coupling only affects the Yukawa contribution strength and not its range and that the Starobinsky model for inflation is not experimentally constrained. Moreover, the geodetic precession effect, obtained also from the radial perturbation of the metric, reveals to be of no relevance for the constraints.

MOST light-curve analysis of the gamma Dor pulsator HR 8799, showing resonances and amplitude variations

Context: The central star of the HR 8799 system is a gamma Doradus-type pulsator. The system harbours four planetary-mass companions detected by direct imaging, and is a good solar system analogue. The masses of the companions are not known accurately, because the estimation depends strongly on the age of the system, which is also not known with sufficient accuracy. Asteroseismic studies of the star might help to better constrain the age of HR 8799. We organized an extensive photometric and multi-site spectroscopic observing campaign for studying the pulsations of the central star. Aims: The aim of the present study is to investigate the pulsation properties of HR 8799 in detail via the ultra-precise 47-d-long nearly continuous photometry obtained with the MOST space telescope, and to find as many independent pulsation modes as possible, which is the prerequisite of an asteroseismic age determination. Methods: We carried out Fourier analysis of the wide-band photometric time series. Results: We find that resonance and sudden amplitude changes characterize the pulsation of HR 8799. The dominant frequency is always at f1 = 1.978 c/d. Many multiples of one ninth of the dominant frequency appear in the Fourier spectrum of the MOST data: n/9 f1, where n={1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 17, 18}. Our analysis also reveals that many of these peaks show strong amplitude decrease and phase variations even on the 47-d time-scale. The dependencies between the pulsation frequencies of HR 8799 make the planned subsequent asteroseismic analysis rather difficult. We point out some resemblance between the light curve of HR 8799 and the modulated pulsation light curves of Blazhko RR Lyrae stars.

Nitrogen isotopic fractionation during abiotic synthesis of organic solid particles

The formation of organic compounds is generally assumed to result from abiotic processes in the Solar System, with the exception of biogenic organics on Earth. Nitrogen-bearing organics are of particular interest, notably for prebiotic perspectives but also for overall comprehension of organic formation in the young solar system and in planetary atmospheres. We have investigated abiotic synthesis of organics upon plasma discharge, with special attention to N isotope fractionation. Organic aerosols were synthesized from N2-CH4 and N2-CO gaseous mixtures using low-pressure plasma discharge experiments, aimed at simulating chemistry occurring in Titan s atmosphere and in the protosolar nebula, respectively. Nitrogen is efficiently incorporated into the synthesized solids, independently of the oxidation degree, of the N2 content of the starting gas mixture, and of the nitrogen speciation in the aerosols. The aerosols are depleted in 15N by 15-25 permil relative to the initial N2 gas, whatever the experimental setup is. Such an isotopic fractionation is attributed to mass-dependent kinetic effect(s). Nitrogen isotope fractionation upon electric discharge cannot account for the large N isotope variations observed among solar system objects and reservoirs. Extreme N isotope signatures in the solar system are more likely the result of self-shielding during N2 photodissociation, exotic effect during photodissociation of N2 and/or low temperature ion-molecule isotope exchange. Kinetic N isotope fractionation may play a significant role in the Titan s atmosphere. We also suggest that the low delta15N values of Archaean organic matter are partly the result of abiotic synthesis of organics that occurred at that time.

Chemical modeling of exoplanet atmospheres

The past twenty years have revealed the diversity of planets that exist in the Universe. It turned out that most of exoplanets are different from the planets of our Solar System and thus, everything about them needs to be explored. Thanks to current observational technologies, we are able to determine some information about the atmospheric composition, the thermal structure and the dynamics of these exoplanets, but many questions remain still unanswered. To improve our knowledge about exoplanetary systems, more accurate observations are needed and that is why the Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory (EChO) is an essential space mission. Thanks to its large spectral coverage and high spectral resolution, EChO will provide exoplanetary spectra with an unprecedented accuracy, allowing to improve our understanding of exoplanets. In this work, we review what has been done to date concerning the chemical modeling of exoplanet atmospheres and what are the main characteristics of warm exoplanet atmospheres, which are one of the main targets of EChO. Finally we will present the ongoing developments that are necessary for the chemical modeling of exoplanet atmospheres.

Spins of Asteroids: The tale of the long tail

The Asteroid Belt and the Kuiper Belt are relics from the formation of our solar system. Understanding the size and spin distribution of the two belts is crucial for a deeper understanding of the formation of our solar system and the dynamical process that govern it. In this paper, we investigate the effect of collisions on the evolution of the spin distribution of asteroids and KBO’s. We find that the power law nature of the impactors’ size distribution leads to a L\’evy distribution of the spin rates. This results in a power law tail of the spin distribution, in stark contrast to the usually quoted Maxwellian distribution. We show that for bodies larger than 10 km, collisions alone lead to spin rates peaking at 0.15-0.5 revolutions per day. Comparing that to the observed spin rates of large asteroids ($R>50$ km), we find that the spins of large asteroids, peaking at $\sim1-2$ revolutions per day, are dominated by a primordial component that reflects the formation mechanism of the asteroids. Similarly, the Kuiper Belt has undergone virtually no collisional spin evolution, leading to less than 0.01 revolutions per day and that the observed spin rates of KBO’s are also primordial in nature.

Gravitationally quantized orbits in the solar system: computations based on the global polytropic model

The so-called "global polytropic model" is based on the assumption of hydrostatic equilibrium for the solar system, or for a planet’s system of statellites (like the jovian system), described by the Lane-Emden differential equation. A polytropic sphere of polytropic index $n$ and radius $R_1$ represents the central component $S_1$ (Sun or planet) of a polytropic configuration with further components the polytropic spherical shells $S_2$, $S_3$, …, defined by the pairs of radii $(R_1,\,R_2)$, $(R_2,\,R_3)$, …, respectively. $R_1,\,R_2,\,R_3,\, \dots$, are the roots of the real part $\mathrm{Re}(\theta)$ of the complex Lane-Emden function $\theta$. Each polytropic shell is assumed to be an appropriate place for a planet, or a planet’s satellite, to be "born" and "live". This scenario has been studied numerically for the cases of the solar and the jovian systems. In the present paper, the Lane-Emden differential equation is solved numerically in the complex plane by using the Fortran code DCRKF54 (modified Runge-Kutta-Fehlberg code of fourth and fifth order for solving initial value problems in the complex plane along complex paths). We include in our numerical study some trans-Neptunian objects.

Low Delta-V Near-Earth Asteroids: a survey of suitable targets for space missions

In the last decades Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) have become very important targets to study, since they can give us clues to the formation, evolution and composition of the Solar System. In addition, they may represent either a threat to humankind, or a repository of extraterrestrial resources for suitable space-borne missions. Within this framework, the choice of next-generation mission targets and the characterisation of a potential threat to our planet deserve special attention. To date, only a small part of the 11,000 discovered NEOs have been physically characterised. From ground and space-based observations one can determine some basic physical properties of these objects using visible and infrared spectroscopy. We present data for 13 objects observed with different telescopes around the world (NASA-IRTF, ESO-NTT, TNG) in the 0.4 – 2.5 um spectral range, within the NEOSURFACE survey (http://www.oa-roma.inaf.it/planet/NEOSurface.html). Objects are chosen from among the more accessible for a rendez-vous mission. All of them are characterised by a delta-V (the change in velocity needed for transferring a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit to rendez-vous with NEOs) lower than 10.5 km/s, well below the Solar System escape velocity (12.3 km/s). We taxonomically classify 9 of these objects for the first time. 11 objects belong to the S-complex taxonomy; the other 2 belong to the C-complex. We constrain the surface composition of these objects by comparing their spectra with meteorites from the RELAB database. We also compute olivine and pyroxene mineralogy for asteroids with a clear evidence of pyroxene bands. Mineralogy confirms the similarity with the already found H, L or LL ordinary chondrite analogues.

Low delta-V near-Earth asteroids: A survey of suitable targets for space missions [Replacement]

In the last decades Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) have become very important targets to study, since they can give us clues to the formation, evolution and composition of the Solar System. In addition, they may represent either a threat to humankind, or a repository of extraterrestrial resources for suitable space-borne missions. Within this framework, the choice of next-generation mission targets and the characterisation of a potential threat to our planet deserve special attention. To date, only a small part of the 11,000 discovered NEOs have been physically characterised. From ground and space-based observations one can determine some basic physical properties of these objects using visible and infrared spectroscopy. We present data for 13 objects observed with different telescopes around the world (NASA-IRTF, ESO-NTT, TNG) in the 0.4 – 2.5 um spectral range, within the NEOSURFACE survey (http://www.oa-roma.inaf.it/planet/NEOSurface.html). Objects are chosen from among the more accessible for a rendez-vous mission. All of them are characterised by a delta-V (the change in velocity needed for transferring a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit to rendez-vous with NEOs) lower than 10.5 km/s, well below the Solar System escape velocity (12.3 km/s). We taxonomically classify 9 of these objects for the first time. 11 objects belong to the S-complex taxonomy; the other 2 belong to the C-complex. We constrain the surface composition of these objects by comparing their spectra with meteorites from the RELAB database. We also compute olivine and pyroxene mineralogy for asteroids with a clear evidence of pyroxene bands. Mineralogy confirms the similarity with the already found H, L or LL ordinary chondrite analogues.

The Influence of Space Environment on the Evolution of Mercury

Mercury, due to its close location to the Sun, is surrounded by an environment whose conditions may be considered as "extreme" in the entire Solar System. Both solar wind and radiation are stronger with respect to other Solar System bodies, so that their interactions with the planet cause high emission of material from its surface. Moreover, the meteoritic precipitation plays a significant role in surface emission processes. This emitted material is partially lost in space. Although under the present conditions the surface particles loss rate does not seem to be able to produce significant erosion of the planetary mass and volume, the long-term effects over billions of years should be carefully considered to properly understand the evolution of the planet. In the early stages, under even more extreme conditions, some of these processes were much more effective in removing material from the planet’s surface. This study attempts to provide a rough estimation of the material loss rate as a function of time, in order to evaluate whether and how this environmental effect can be applied to understand the Hermean surface evolution. We show that the most potentially effective Sun-induced erosion process in early times is a combination of ion sputtering, photon stimulated desorption and enhanced diffusion, which could have caused the loss of a surface layer down to a depth of 20 m, as well as a relevant Na depletion.

The origins and concentrations of water, carbon, nitrogen and noble gases on Earth

The isotopic compositions of terrestrial hydrogen and nitrogen are clearly different from those of the nebular gas from which the solar system formed, and also differ from most of cometary values. Terrestrial N and H isotopic compositions are in the range of values characterizing primitive meteorites, which suggests that water, nitrogen, and other volatile elements on Earth originated from a cosmochemical reservoir that also sourced the parent bodies of primitive meteorites. Remnants of the proto-solar nebula (PSN) are still present in the mantle, presumably signing the sequestration of PSN gas at an early stage of planetary growth. The contribution of cometary volatiles appears limited to a few percents at most of the total volatile inventory of the Earth. The isotope signatures of H, N, Ne and Ar can be explained by mixing between two end-members of solar and chondritic compositions, respectively, and do not require isotopic fractionation during hydrodynamic escape of an early atmosphere. The terrestrial inventory of 40Ar (produced by the decay of 40K throughout the Earth’s history) suggests that a significant fraction of radiogenic argon may be still trapped in the silicate Earth. By normalizing other volatile element abundances to this isotope, it is proposed that the Earth is not as volatile-poor as previously thought. Our planet may indeed contain up to ~3000 ppm water (preferred range : 1000-3000 ppm), and up to ~500 ppm C, both largely sequestrated in the solid Earth. This volatile content is equivalent to a ~2 (+/-1) % contribution of carbonaceous chondrite (CI-CM) material to a dry proto-Earth, which is higher than the contribution of chondritic material advocated to account for the platinum group element budget of the mantle. Such a (relatively) high contribution of volatile-rich matter is consistent with the accretion of a few wet planetesimals during Earth accretion.

Extremely large peculiar motion of the solar system detected using redshift distribution of distant quasars

According to the cosmological principle, an observer fixed in the co-moving co-ordinate system of the expanding Universe should find the Universe to be isotropic, without any preferred directions. To such an observer the redshift distribution due to Hubble expansion of the Universe should also appear similar in all directions. However a peculiar motion of such an observer could introduce a dipole anisotropy in the observed redshift distribution; in reverse an observed dipole anisotropy in the observed redshift distribution could be used to infer the peculiar velocity of the observer with respect to the average Universe. We determine the peculiar velocity of the solar system relative to the frame of distant quasars, by studying the dipole anisotropy, if any, in the redshift distribution of a large sample of quasars distributed across the sky. The magnitude of the peculiar velocity thus determined turns out be extremely large ($9750\pm 550$ km/s; $\sim3\%$ the speed of light), and is about an order of magnitude larger than the velocity determined from the dipole anisotropy in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation or the value determined earlier relative to the frame of distant radio sources. Even the direction of the motion is in a direction nearly opposite to the earlier determinations. The large differences in the magnitudes of inferred motion as well as their opposite signs are rather disconcerting. A genuine difference between these velocity vectors would imply highly anisotropic Universe, with anisotropy changing with epoch. This would violate the cosmological principle where the isotropy of the Universe is assumed for all epochs, and which is the basis of modern cosmological models.

Giant Planets

We review the interior structure and evolution of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and giant exoplanets with particular emphasis on constraining their global composition. Compared to the first edition of this review, we provide a new discussion of the atmospheric compositions of the solar system giant planets, we discuss the discovery of oscillations of Jupiter and Saturn, the significant improvements in our understanding of the behavior of material at high pressures and the consequences for interior and evolution models. We place the giant planets in our Solar System in context with the trends seen for exoplanets.

The Debiased Kuiper Belt: Our Solar System as a Debris Disk

The dust measured in debris disks traces the position of planetesimal belts. In our Solar System, we are also able to measure the largest planetesimals directly and can extrapolate down to make an estimate of the dust. The zodiacal dust from the asteroid belt is better constrained than the only rudimentary measurements of Kuiper belt dust. Dust models will thus be based on the current orbital distribution of the larger bodies which provide the collisional source. The orbital distribution of many Kuiper belt objects is strongly affected by dynamical interactions with Neptune, and the structure cannot be understood without taking this into account. We present the debiased Kuiper belt as measured by the Canada-France Ecliptic Plane Survey (CFEPS). This model includes the absolute populations for objects with diameters >100 km, measured orbital distributions, and size distributions of the components of the Kuiper belt: the classical belt (hot, stirred, and kernel components), the scattering disk, the detached objects, and the resonant objects (1:1, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2 including Kozai subcomponent, 5:3, 7:4, 2:1, 7:3, 5:2, 3:1, and 5:1). Because a large fraction of known debris disks are consistent with dust at Kuiper belt distances from the host stars, the CFEPS Kuiper belt model provides an excellent starting point for a debris disk model, as the dynamical interactions with planets interior to the disk are well-understood and can be precisely modelled using orbital integrations.

Variability of M giant stars based on em Kepler photometry: general characteristics

Small amounts of pre-solar grains have survived in the matrices of primitive meteorites and interplanetary dust particles. Their detailed study in the laboratory with modern analytical tools provides highly accurate and detailed information with regard to stellar nucleosynthesis and evolution, grain formation in stellar atmospheres, and Galactic Chemical Evolution. Their survival puts constraints on conditions they were exposed to in the interstellar medium and in the Early Solar System.

In Search of Exomoons

Two decades ago, astronomers began detecting planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, so-called exoplanets. Since that time, the rate of detections and the sensitivity to ever-smaller planets has improved dramatically with several Earth-sized planets now known. As our sensitivity dives into the terrestrial regime, increasingly the community has wondered if the moons of exoplanets may also be detectable, so-called "exomoons". Their detection represents an outstanding challenge in modern astronomy and would provide deep insights into the uniqueness of our Solar System and perhaps even expand the definition of habitability. Here, I will briefly review theoretical studies exploring the formation and evolution of exomoons, which serve to guide observational searches and provide testable hypotheses. Next, I will outline the different methods which have been proposed to accomplish this challenging feat and their respective merits. Finally, initial results from observational efforts will be summarized with a view to future prospects as well.

Screening Solutions in Modified Gravity Theories

In this work, we illustrate through a simple example the possibility of testing the chameleon screening mechanism in the Solar System using the forthcoming LISA Pathfinder mission around gravitational saddle points. We find distinctive tidal stress signatures for such models and consider the potential for constraints.

Screening Solutions in Modified Gravity Theories [Cross-Listing]

In this work, we illustrate through a simple example the possibility of testing the chameleon screening mechanism in the Solar System using the forthcoming LISA Pathfinder mission around gravitational saddle points. We find distinctive tidal stress signatures for such models and consider the potential for constraints.

The fast spin-rotation of a young extrasolar planet

The spin-rotation of a planet arises from the accretion of angular momentum during its formation, but the details of this process are still unclear. In the solar system, the equatorial rotation velocities and spin angular momentum of the planets show a clear trend with mass, except for Mercury and Venus which have significantly spun down since their formation due to tidal interactions. Here we report on near-infrared spectroscopic observations at R=100,000 of the young extra-solar gas giant beta Pictoris b. The absorption signal from carbon monoxide in the planet’s thermal spectrum is found to be blueshifted with respect to the velocity of the parent star by (-15+-1.7) km/sec, consistent with a circular orbit. The combined line profile exhibits a rotational broadening of 25+-3 km/sec, meaning that Beta Pictoris b spins significantly faster than any planet in the solar system, in line with the extrapolation of the known trend in spin velocity with planet mass.

Data Analysis Methods for Testing Alternative Theories of Gravity with LISA Pathfinder

In this paper we present a data analysis approach applicable to the potential saddle-point fly-by mission extension of LISA Pathfinder (LPF). At the peak of its sensitivity, LPF will sample the gravitational field in our Solar System with a precision of several $\text{fm/s}^2/\sqrt{\text{Hz}}$ at frequencies around $1\,\text{mHz}$. Such an accurate accelerometer will allow us to test alternative theories of gravity that predict deviations from Newtonian dynamics in the non-relativistic limit. As an example, we consider the case of the Tensor-Vector-Scalar theory of gravity and calculate, within the non-relativistic limit of this theory, the signals that anomalous tidal stresses generate in LPF. We study the parameter space of these signals and divide it into two subgroups, one related to the mission parameters and the other to the theory parameters that are determined by the gravity model. We investigate how the mission parameters affect the signal detectability concluding that these parameters can be determined with the sufficient precision from the navigation of the spacecraft and fixed during our analysis. Further, we apply Bayesian parameter estimation and determine the accuracy to which the gravity theory parameters may be inferred. We evaluate the portion of parameter space that may be eliminated in case of no signal detection and estimate the detectability of signals as a function of parameter space location. We also perform a first investigation of non-Gaussian "noise-glitches" that may occur in the data. The analysis we develop is universal and may be applied to anomalous tidal stress induced signals predicted by any theory of gravity.

Data Analysis Methods for Testing Alternative Theories of Gravity with LISA Pathfinder [Replacement]

In this paper we present a data analysis approach applicable to the potential saddle-point fly-by mission extension of LISA Pathfinder (LPF). At the peak of its sensitivity, LPF will sample the gravitational field in our Solar System with a precision of several $\text{fm/s}^2/\sqrt{\text{Hz}}$ at frequencies around $1\,\text{mHz}$. Such an accurate accelerometer will allow us to test alternative theories of gravity that predict deviations from Newtonian dynamics in the non-relativistic limit. As an example, we consider the case of the Tensor-Vector-Scalar theory of gravity and calculate, within the non-relativistic limit of this theory, the signals that anomalous tidal stresses generate in LPF. We study the parameter space of these signals and divide it into two subgroups, one related to the mission parameters and the other to the theory parameters that are determined by the gravity model. We investigate how the mission parameters affect the signal detectability concluding that these parameters can be determined with the sufficient precision from the navigation of the spacecraft and fixed during our analysis. Further, we apply Bayesian parameter estimation and determine the accuracy to which the gravity theory parameters may be inferred. We evaluate the portion of parameter space that may be eliminated in case of no signal detection and estimate the detectability of signals as a function of parameter space location. We also perform a first investigation of non-Gaussian "noise-glitches" that may occur in the data. The analysis we develop is universal and may be applied to anomalous tidal stress induced signals predicted by any theory of gravity.

A Review of Solar Type III Radio Bursts

Solar type III radio bursts are an important diagnostic tool in the understanding of solar accelerated electron beams. They are a signature of propagating beams of nonthermal electrons in the solar atmosphere and the solar system. Consequently, they provide information on electron acceleration and transport, and the conditions of the background ambient plasma they travel through. We review the observational properties of type III bursts with an emphasis on recent results and how each property can help identify attributes of electron beams and the ambient background plasma. We also review some of the theoretical aspects of type III radio bursts and cover a number of numerical efforts that simulate electron beam transport through the solar corona and the heliosphere.

Triggered Star Formation and Its Consequences

Star formation can be triggered by compression from wind or supernova driven shock waves that sweep over molecular clouds. Because these shocks will likely contain processed elements, triggered star formation has been proposed as an explanation for short lived radioactive isotopes (SLRI) in the Solar System. Previous studies have tracked the triggering event to the earliest phases of collapse and have focused on the shock properties required for both successful star formation and mixing of SLRI’s. In this paper, we use Adaptive Mesh Refinement (AMR) simulation methods, including sink particles, to simulate the full collapse and subsequent evolution of a stable Bonnor-Ebert sphere subjected to a shock and post-shock wind. We track the flow of the cloud material after a star (a sink particle) has formed. For non-rotating clouds we find robust triggered collapse and little bound circumstellar material remaining around the post-shock collapsed core. When we add initial cloud rotation we observe the formation of disks around the collapsed core which then interact with the post-shock flow. Our results indicate that these circumstellar disks are massive enough to form planets and are long-lived, in spite of the ablation driven by post-shock flow ram pressure. As a function of the initial conditions, we also track the time evolution of the accretion rates and particle mixing between between the ambient wind and cloud material. The latter is maximized for cases of highest mach number.

Electric solar wind sail applications overview

We analyse the potential of the electric solar wind sail for solar system space missions. Applications studied include fly-by missions to terrestrial planets (Venus, Mars and Phobos, Mercury) and asteroids, missions based on non-Keplerian orbits (orbits that can be maintained only by applying continuous propulsive force), one-way boosting to outer solar system, off-Lagrange point space weather forecasting and low-cost impactor probes for added science value to other missions. We also discuss the generic idea of data clippers (returning large volumes of high resolution scientific data from distant targets packed in memory chips) and possible exploitation of asteroid resources. Possible orbits were estimated by orbit calculations assuming circular and coplanar orbits for planets. Some particular challenge areas requiring further research work and related to some more ambitious mission scenarios are also identified and discussed.

Scientific rationale of Saturn's in situ exploration

Remote sensing observations meet some limitations when used to study the bulk atmospheric composition of the giant planets of our solar system. A remarkable example of the superiority of in situ probe measurements is illustrated by the exploration of Jupiter, where key measurements such as the determination of the noble gases abundances and the precise measurement of the helium mixing ratio have only been made available through in situ measurements by the Galileo probe. This paper describes the main scientific goals to be addressed by the future in situ exploration of Saturn placing the Galileo probe exploration of Jupiter in a broader context and before the future probe exploration of the more remote ice giants. In situ exploration of Saturn’s atmosphere addresses two broad themes that are discussed throughout this paper: first, the formation history of our solar system and second, the processes at play in planetary atmospheres. In this context, we detail the reasons why measurements of Saturn’s bulk elemental and isotopic composition would place important constraints on the volatile reservoirs in the protosolar nebula. We also show that the in situ measurement of CO (or any other disequilibrium species that is depleted by reaction with water) in Saturn’s upper troposphere would constrain its bulk O/H ratio. We highlight the key measurements required to distinguish competing theories to shed light on giant planet formation as a common process in planetary systems with potential applications to most extrasolar systems. In situ measurements of Saturn’s stratospheric and tropospheric dynamics, chemistry and cloud-forming processes will provide access to phenomena unreachable to remote sensing studies. Different mission architectures are envisaged, which would benefit from strong international collaborations.

 

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