Research Article

A Giant Impact Origin of Pluto-Charon

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Science  28 Jan 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5709, pp. 546-550
DOI: 10.1126/science.1106818

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Pluto and its moon, Charon, are the most prominent members of the Kuiper belt, and their existence holds clues to outer solar system formation processes. Here, hydrodynamic simulations are used to demonstrate that the formation of Pluto-Charon by means of a large collision is quite plausible. I show that such an impact probably produced an intact Charon, although it is possible that a disk of material orbited Pluto from which Charon later accumulated. These findings suggest that collisions between 1000-kilometer-class objects occurred in the early inner Kuiper belt.

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