Neptune's Eccentricity and the Nature of the Kuiper Belt

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Science  26 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5372, pp. 2104-2106
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5372.2104

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The small eccentricity of Neptune may be a direct consequence of apsidal wave interaction with the trans-Neptune population of debris called the Kuiper belt. The Kuiper belt is subject to resonant perturbations from Neptune, so that the transport of angular momentum by density waves can result in orbital evolution of Neptune as well as changes in the structure of the Kuiper belt. In particular, for a belt eroded out to the vicinity of Neptune's 2:1 resonance at about 48 astronomical units, Neptune's eccentricity can damp to its current value over the age of the solar system if the belt contains slightly more than an earth mass of material out to about 75 astronomical units.

  • * Present address: Southwest Research Institute, 1050 Walnut Street, Suite 429, Boulder, CO 80302 USA.

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