2060 Chiron

Large 200km centaur/comet with 50-year orbit

2060 Chiron is a small Solar System body in the outer Solar System, orbiting the Sun between Saturn and Uranus. Discovered in 1977 by Charles Kowal, it was the first-identified member of a new class of objects now known as centaurs—bodies orbiting between the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt.[a]

Although it was initially called an asteroid and classified only as a minor planet with the designation "2060 Chiron", in 1989 it was found to exhibit behavior typical of a comet. Today it is classified as both a minor planet and a comet, and is accordingly also known by the cometary designation 95P/Chiron. Chiron is named after the centaur Chiron in Greek mythology.[1]

History

Discovery

Chiron was discovered on 1 November 1977 by Charles Kowal from images taken on 18 October at Palomar Observatory.[2][3] It was given the temporary designation of 1977 UB.[27] It was found near aphelion[2] and at the time of discovery it was the most distant known minor planet.[b][27] Chiron was even claimed as the tenth planet by the press.[28] Chiron was later found on several precovery images, going back to 1895,[29] which allowed its orbit to be accurately determined.[2] It had been at perihelion in 1945 but was not discovered then because there were few searches being made at that time, and these were not sensitive to slow-moving objects. The Lowell Observatory's survey for distant planets would not have gone down faint enough in the 1930s and did not cover the right region of the sky in the 1940s.[2] The April 1895 precovery image was one month after the March 1895 perihelion.[10]

Naming

This minor planet was named after Chiron, a half-human, half-horse centaur from Greek mythology. Son of the Titan Cronus and the nymph Philyra, Chiron was the wisest and most just of all centaurs, serving as an instructor of the Greek heroes.[5] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 1 April 1978 (M.P.C. 4359).[5][30] It was suggested that the names of other centaurs be reserved for objects of the same type.[2]

Chiron, along with most major and minor planetary bodies, is not generally given a symbol in astronomy. A symbol ⚷ was devised for it by Al H. Morrison and is mostly used among astrologers: it resembles a key as well as an OK monogram for Object Kowal.[31][32]

Orbit

Orbital diagram of Chiron

Chiron's orbit was found to be highly eccentric (0.37), with perihelion just inside the orbit of Saturn and aphelion just outside the perihelion of Uranus (it does not reach the average distance of Uranus, however). According to the program Solex, Chiron's closest approach to Saturn in modern times was around May 720, when it came within 30.5±2.0 million km (0.204 ± 0.013 AU) of Saturn. During this passage Saturn's gravity caused Chiron's semi-major axis to decrease from 14.55±0.12 AU[33] to 13.7 AU.[6] Chiron's orbit does not intersect Uranus.

Chiron attracted considerable interest because it was the first object discovered in such an orbit, well outside the asteroid belt. Chiron is classified as a centaur, the first of a class of objects orbiting between the outer planets. Chiron is a Saturn–Uranus object because its perihelion lies in Saturn's zone of control and its aphelion lies in that of Uranus.[34] Centaurs are not in stable orbits and will be removed by gravitational perturbation by the giant planets over a period of millions of years, moving to different orbits or leaving the Solar System altogether.[35] Chiron is probably from the Kuiper belt and will probably become a short-period comet in about a million years.[34] Chiron came to perihelion (closest point to the Sun) in 1996 and aphelion in May 2021.[8]

Physical characteristics

Spectral type

The visible and near-infrared spectrum of Chiron is neutral,[27] and is similar to that of C-type asteroids and the nucleus of Halley's Comet.[15] The near-infrared spectrum of Chiron shows absence of water ice.[36]

Rotation period

Four rotational light curves of Chiron were taken from photometric observations between 1989 and 1997. Lightcurve analysis gave a concurring, well-defined rotational period of 5.918 hours with a small brightness variation of 0.05 to 0.09 magnitude, which indicates that the body has a rather spheroidal shape (U=3/3/3).[13][14][15][16][17]

Diameter

Summary – size estimates for Chiron:
Year Diameter Notes Refs
1984 180 km Lebofsky (1984) [37]
1991 186 km IRAS [37]
1994 188 km Campins (radius 94±6 km) [27]
1996 180 km occultation [37]
1998 166 km Dunham occultation list
(Dunham 1998)
[6]
2007 233 km Spitzer Space Telescope [12]
2013 218 km Herschel Space Observatory
(PACS and SPIRE)
[11]
2017 271 km LCDB [13]
2017 206 km Brown [18]

The assumed size of an object depends on its absolute magnitude (H) and the albedo (the amount of light it reflects). In 1984 Lebofsky estimated Chiron to be about 180 km in diameter.[37] Estimates in the 1990s were closer to 150 km in diameter.[6][37] Occultation data from 1993 suggests a diameter of about 180 km.[37] Combined data from the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2007 and the Herschel Space Observatory in 2011 suggests that Chiron is 218±20 km in diameter.[11] Therefore, Chiron may be as large as 10199 Chariklo.[12] The diameter of Chiron is difficult to estimate in part because the true absolute magnitude of its nucleus is uncertain due to its highly variable cometary activity.[11]

Cometary behavior

In February 1988, at 12 AU from the Sun, Chiron brightened by 75 percent.[38] This is behavior typical of comets but not asteroids. Further observations in April 1989 showed that Chiron had developed a cometary coma,[39] A tail was detected in 1993.[27] Chiron differs from other comets in that water is not a major component of its coma, because it is too far from the Sun for water to sublimate.[40] In 1995 carbon monoxide was detected in Chiron in very small amounts, and the derived CO production rate was calculated to be sufficient to account for the observed coma.[41] Cyanide was also detected in the spectrum of Chiron in 1991.[42] At the time of its discovery, Chiron was close to aphelion, whereas the observations showing a coma were done closer to perihelion, perhaps explaining why no cometary behavior had been seen earlier. The fact that Chiron is still active probably means it has not been in its current orbit very long.[29]

Chiron is officially designated as both a comet—95P/Chiron—and a minor planet,[4][11] an indication of the sometimes fuzzy dividing line between the two classes of object. The term proto-comet has also been used. Being about 220 km in diameter, it is unusually large for a comet nucleus. Chiron was the first member of a new family of Chiron-type comets (CTC) with (TJupiter > 3; a > aJupiter).[6] Other CTCs include: 39P/Oterma, 165P/LINEAR, 166P/NEAT, and 167P/CINEOS. There are also non-centaur asteroids that are simultaneously classified as comets, such as 4015 Wilson–Harrington, 7968 Elst–Pizarro, and 118401 LINEAR.[4] Michael Brown lists it as possibly a dwarf planet with a measured diameter of 200 km (120 mi),[18] which may be near the lower limit for an icy object to have been a dwarf planet at some point in its history.

Since the discovery of Chiron, other centaurs have been discovered, and nearly all are currently classified as minor planets, but are being observed for possible cometary behavior. 60558 Echeclus has displayed a cometary coma and now also has the cometary designation 174P/Echeclus. After passing perihelion in early 2008, 52872 Okyrhoe significantly brightened.[43]

Rings

Depiction of Chiron with rings

Chiron possibly has rings, similar to the better-established rings of 10199 Chariklo.[44][45][46][c] Based on unexpected occultation events observed in stellar-occultation data obtained on 7 November 1993, 9 March 1994, and 29 November 2011, which were initially interpreted as resulting from jets associated with Chiron's comet-like activity, Chiron's rings are proposed to be 324±10 km in radius and sharply defined. Their changing appearance at different viewing angles can largely explain the long-term variation in Chiron's brightness and hence estimates of Chiron's albedo and size. Moreover, it can, by assuming that the water ice is in Chiron's rings, explain the changing intensity of the infrared water-ice absorption bands in Chiron's spectrum, including their disappearance in 2001 (when the rings were edge-on). Also, the geometric albedo of Chiron's rings as determined by spectroscopy is consistent with that used to explain Chiron's long-term brightness variations.[44]

The preferred pole of Chiron's rings is, in ecliptic coordinates, λ = 144°±10°, β = 24°±10°. The rings' width, separation, and optical depths are nearly identical to those of Chariklo's rings, indicating that the same type of structure is responsible for both. Moreover, both their rings are within their respective Roche limits.[44]

Exploration

The Chiron Orbiter Mission is a mission proposed for NASA's New Frontiers program or Flagship program. It was published in May 2010 and proposes an orbiter mission to Chiron. Its launch date could vary from as early as 2023, but as late as 2025 depending on budget and propulsion type.[47]

There is another mission proposed apart of the Discovery Program known as Centaurus; if approved it would launch between 2026 to 2029 and make a flyby of 2060 Chiron and one other Centaur sometime in the 2030s.

Gallery

Wikimedia Commons has media related to 2060 Chiron.
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of the centaur 2060 Chiron, taken on 14 September 2015

    Hubble Space Telescope image of the centaur 2060 Chiron, taken on 14 September 2015

  • Chaotic, unstable motion of Chiron with Saturn (stationary, white dot at 10 o'clock) and Jupiter (blue)

    Chaotic, unstable motion of Chiron with Saturn (stationary, white dot at 10 o'clock) and Jupiter (blue)

  • Animated orbital diagram with Chiron

    Animated orbital diagram with Chiron

See also

Notes

  1. ^ 944 Hidalgo, discovered in 1920, also fits this definition, but was not identified as belonging to a distinct population.
  2. ^ Pluto, now considered to be a dwarf planet and hence a minor planet, was known at the time, but was considered a planet.
  3. ^ A stellar occultation in 2017 of another minor planet, Haumea (a trans-Neptunian object), indicated the presence of a ring.

References

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  3. ^ a b "Chiron Fact Sheet". NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. 20 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "Dual-Status Objects". Minor Planet Center.
  5. ^ a b c Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). "(2060) Chiron". Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (2060) Chiron. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 167. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_2061. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3.
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  10. ^ a b "Horizons Batch for 2060 Chiron (1977 UB) on 1895-Mar-16" (Perihelion occurs when rdot flips from negative to positive). JPL Horizons. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
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  12. ^ a b c Stansberry, John; Grundy, Will; Brown, Michael E.; Cruikshank, Dale P.; Spencer, John; Trilling, David; Margot, Jean-Luc (November 2007). "Physical Properties of Kuiper Belt and Centaur Objects: Constraints from Spitzer Space Telescope". arXiv:astro-ph/0702538.
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  24. ^ Peixinho, Nuno; Delsanti, Audrey C.; Guilbert-Lepoutre, Aurélie; Gafeira, Ricardo; Lacerda, Pedro (October 2012). "The bimodal colors of Centaurs and small Kuiper belt objects". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 546: 12. arXiv:1206.3153. Bibcode:2012A&A...546A..86P. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201219057. S2CID 55876118.
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  28. ^ Collander-Brown, Simon J.; Maran, Michael D.; Williams, Iwan P. (2000). "The effect on the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt of a large distant tenth planet". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 318 (1): 101–108. Bibcode:2000MNRAS.318..101C. doi:10.1046/j.1365-8711.2000.t01-1-03640.x.
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  32. ^ Miller & Stein (2021) Comment on U+26B7 CHIRON L2/21-225, UTC Document Registry
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  40. ^ Meech, Karen J.; Belton, Michael J. S. (October 1990). "The Atmosphere of 2060 Chiron". The Astronomical Journal. 100: 1323–1338. Bibcode:1990AJ....100.1323M. doi:10.1086/115600.
  41. ^ Womack, Maria; Stern, Alan (1999). "Observations of Carbon Monoxide in (2060) Chiron" (PDF). Conference Proceedings, Lunar and Planetary Science XXVIII. 28th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Houston, TX, Mar. 17-21, 1997. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  42. ^ Bus, Schelte J.; A'Hearn, Michael F.; Schleicher, David G.; Bowell, Edward L. G. (15 February 1991). "Detection of CN Emission from (2060) Chiron". Science. 251 (4995): 774–777. Bibcode:1991Sci...251..774B. doi:10.1126/science.251.4995.774. hdl:2060/19920003642. PMID 17775455. S2CID 32230927.
  43. ^ Trigo-Rodríguez, Josep M.; García Melendo, Enrique; García-Hernández, Domingo Aníbal; Davidsson, Björn J. R.; Sánchez, Albert; Rodriguez, Diego (2008). A continuous follow-up of Centaurs, and dormant comets: looking for cometary activity (PDF). 3rd European Planetary Science Congress 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  44. ^ a b c Ortiz Moreno, José Luis; Duffard, René Damián; Pinilla-Alonso, Noemi; Alvarez-Candal, Alvaro; Santos-Sanz, Pablo; Morales Palomino, Nicolás Francisco; Fernández-Valenzuela, Estela del Mar; Licandro, Javier; Campo Bagatin, Adriano; Thirouin, Audrey (2015). "Possible ring material around centaur (2060) Chiron". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 576: A18. arXiv:1501.05911. Bibcode:2015A&A...576A..18O. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201424461. S2CID 38950384.
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  47. ^ "Chiron Orbiter Mission Concept Study".

Further reading

  • Fernández, Yanga R.; Jewitt, David C.; Sheppard, Scott S. (2002). "Thermal Properties of Centaurs Asbolus and Chiron". Astronomical Journal. 123 (2): 1050–1055. arXiv:astro-ph/0111395. Bibcode:2002AJ....123.1050F. doi:10.1086/338436. S2CID 11266670.
  • Moore, Patrick; Guinness book of Astronomy, ISBN 0-85112-375-9
  • SOLEX 9.1

External links

  • Orbit Fit and Astrometric record for (2060) Chiron, Marc W. Buie, SwRI – Space Science Department (2007)
  • 95P/Chiron at Cometography
  • A single clone run of centaur 2060 Chiron showing how Chiron may someday become an active comet (Solex 10)
  • 2060 Chiron at AstDyS-2, Asteroids—Dynamic Site
    • Ephemeris · Observation prediction · Orbital info · Proper elements · Observational info
  • 2060 Chiron at the JPL Small-Body Database Edit this at Wikidata
    • Close approach · Discovery · Ephemeris · Orbit diagram · Orbital elements · Physical parameters


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  • 165P/LINEAR
  • 166P/NEAT
  • 167P/CINEOS
  • 60558 Echeclus (174P)
  • 118401 LINEAR (176P)
  • 238P/Read
  • 259P/Garradd
  • 311P/PanSTARRS
  • 324P/La Sagra
  • 354P/LINEAR
  • P/2012 F5 (Gibbs)
  • P/2012 T1 (PANSTARRS)
  • P/2013 R3 (Catalina-PANSTARRS)
  • (300163) 2006 VW139
Lost
Recovered
Destroyed
Not found
  • D/1770 L1 (Lexell)
  • 5D/Brorsen
  • 18D/Perrine–Mrkos
  • 20D/Westphal
  • 25D/Neujmin
  • 34D/Gale
  • 75D/Kohoutek
  • 83D/Russell
  • 85D/Boethin
Visited by
spacecraft
Near-Parabolic
comets
(notable)
Until 1910
  • C/-43 K1 (Caesar's Comet)
  • X/1106 C1 (Great Comet of 1106)
  • C/1577 V1 (Great Comet of 1577)
  • C/1652 Y1
  • C/1680 V1 (Great Comet of 1680, Kirsch's Comet, Newton's Comet))
  • C/1702 H1 (Comet of 1702)
  • C/1729 P1 (Comet of 1729, Comet Sarabat)
  • C/1743 X1 (Great Comet of 1744, Comet Klinkenberg-Chéseaux)
  • C/1760 A1 (Great Comet of 1760)
  • C/1769 P1 (Great Comet of 1769)
  • C/1807 R1 (Great Comet of 1807)
  • C/1811 F1 (Great Comet of 1811)
  • C/1819 N1 (Great Comet of 1819)
  • C/1823 Y1 (Great Comet of 1823)
  • C/1843 D1 (Great March Comet of 1843)
  • C/1847 T1 (Miss Mitchell's Comet)
  • C/1858 L1 (Comet Donati)
  • C/1861 G1 (Comet Thatcher)
  • C/1861 J1 (Great Comet of 1861)
  • C/1865 B1 (Great Southern Comet of 1865)
  • X/1872 X1 (Pogson's Comet)
  • C/1874 H1 (Comet Coggia)
  • C/1881 K1 (Comet Tebbutt)
  • C/1882 R1 (Great Comet of 1882)
  • C/1887 B1 (Great Southern Comet of 1887)
  • C/1890 V1 (Comet Zona)
  • C/1901 G1 (Great Comet of 1901)
  • C/1910 A1 (Great January Comet of 1910)
After 1910
  • C/1911 O1 (Brooks)
  • C/1911 S3 (Beljawsky)
  • C/1927 X1 (Skjellerup–Maristany)
  • C/1931 P1 (Ryves)
  • C/1941 B2 (de Kock-Paraskevopoulos) [de]
  • C/1947 X1 (Southern Comet) [de]
  • C/1948 V1 (Eclipse)
  • C/1956 R1 (Arend–Roland)
  • C/1957 P1 (Mrkos)
  • C/1961 O1 (Wilson-Hubbard) [de]
  • C/1961 R1 (Humason)
  • C/1962 C1 (Seki-Lines) [de]
  • C/1963 R1 (Pereyra)
  • C/1965 S1 (Ikeya-Seki)
  • C/1969 Y1 (Bennett)
  • C/1970 K1 (White–Ortiz–Bolelli)
  • C/1973 E1 (Kohoutek)
  • C/1975 V1 (West)
  • C/1980 E1 (Bowell)
  • C/1983 H1 (IRAS–Araki–Alcock)
  • C/1989 X1 (Austin)
  • C/1989 Y1 (Skorichenko–George)
  • C/1992 J1 (Spacewatch–Rabinowitz)
  • C/1993 Y1 (McNaught–Russell)
  • C/1995 O1 (Hale–Bopp)
  • C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake)
  • C/1997 L1 (Zhu–Balam)
  • C/1998 H1 (Stonehouse)
  • C/1998 J1 (SOHO)
  • C/1999 F1 (Catalina)
  • C/1999 S4 (LINEAR)
  • C/2000 U5 (LINEAR)
  • C/2000 W1 (Utsunomiya-Jones)
  • C/2001 OG108 (LONEOS)
  • C/2001 Q4 (NEAT)
  • C/2002 T7 (LINEAR)
  • C/2003 A2 (Gleason)
  • C/2004 F4 (Bradfield) [de]
  • C/2004 Q2 (Machholz)
  • C/2006 A1 (Pojmański)
  • C/2006 M4 (SWAN)
  • C/2006 P1 (McNaught)
  • C/2007 E2 (Lovejoy)
  • C/2007 F1 (LONEOS)
  • C/2007 K5 (Lovejoy)
  • C/2007 N3 (Lulin)
  • C/2007 Q3 (Siding Spring)
  • C/2007 W1 (Boattini)
  • C/2008 Q1 (Matičič)
  • C/2009 F6 (Yi–SWAN)
  • C/2009 R1 (McNaught)
  • C/2010 X1 (Elenin)
  • C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS)
  • C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy)
  • C/2012 E2 (SWAN)
  • C/2012 F6 (Lemmon)
  • C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS)
  • C/2012 S1 (ISON)
  • C/2012 S4 (PANSTARRS)
  • C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)
  • C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy)
  • C/2013 US10 (Catalina)
  • C/2013 V5 (Oukaimeden)
  • C/2014 E2 (Jacques)
  • C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)
  • C/2015 ER61 (PanSTARRS)
  • C/2015 V2 (Johnson)
  • 1I/2017 U1 ʻOumuamua
  • C/2017 U7
  • C/2018 C2 (Lemmon)
  • C/2019 E3 (ATLAS)
  • 2I/Borisov
After 1910
(by name)
  • Arend–Roland
  • Austin
  • Beljawsky
  • Bennett
  • Boattini
  • Borisov
  • Bowell
  • Bradfield [de]
  • Brooks
  • Catalina
    • C/1999 F1 (Catalina)
    • C/2013 US10 (Catalina)
  • de Kock–Paraskevopoulos [de]
  • Eclipse
  • Elenin
  • Hale-Bopp
  • Humason
  • Hyakutake
  • Ikeya-Seki
  • IRAS–Araki–Alcock
  • ISON
  • Jacques
  • Johnson
  • Kohoutek
  • Lemmon
    • C/2012 F6
    • C/2018 C2
  • LINEAR
    • C/1999 S4 (LINEAR)
    • C/2000 U5 (LINEAR)
    • C/2002 T7
  • LONEOS
    • C/2001 OG108
    • C/2007 F1
  • Lovejoy
    • C/2007 E2
    • C/2007 K5
    • C/2011 W3
    • C/2013 R1
    • C/2014 Q2
  • Lulin
  • Machholz
  • Matičič
  • McNaught
    • C/2006 P1
    • C/2009 R1 (McNaught)
  • McNaught–Russell
  • Mrkos
  • NEAT
  • Oukaimeden
  • ʻOumuamua
  • Pan-STARRS
    • C/2011 L4
    • C/2012 K1
    • C/2012 S4
    • 311P/PanSTARRS
    • C/2015 ER61 (PanSTARRS)
  • Pereyra
  • Pojmański
  • Ryves
  • Seki–Lines [de]
  • Siding Spring
    • C/2007 Q3 (Siding Spring)
    • C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)
  • Skjellerup–Maristany
  • Skorichenko–George
  • SOHO
  • Southern [de]
  • Spacewatch–Rabinowitz
  • Stonehouse
  • SWAN
    • C/2006 M4
    • C/2012 E2
  • Utsunomiya–Jones
  • West
  • White–Ortiz–Bolelli
  • Wilson–Hubbard [de]
  • Yi–SWAN
  • Zhu–Balam
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  • Commons
  • Wikinews
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