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Keywords:

  • celestial mechanics;
  • Kuiper belt: general;
  • minor planets, asteroids: general

ABSTRACT

The triple asteroids and triple Kuiper belt objects (collectively called triple minor planets) in the Solar system are of particular interest to the scientific community since the discovery of the first triple asteroid system in 2004. In this paper, the Hill stability of the nine known triple minor planets in the Solar system is investigated. Seven of the systems are of large size ratio, that is, they consist of a larger primary and two moonlets, while the other two systems have components of comparable size. Each case is treated separately. For the triple minor planets that have large size ratio, the sufficient condition for Hill stability is expressed in a closed form. This is not possible for the systems with comparable size components, for which the Hill stability is assessed by a combination of analytical and numerical means. It is found that all the known triple minor planets are Hill stable, except 3749 Balam, for which the incomplete orbital parameters make the Hill stability of the system uncertain. This suggests that there might be more such stable triple minor planets in the Solar system yet to be observed. It is also shown that the Hill stability regions increase as the mutual inclination between the inner and outer orbits decreases, the semimajor axis ratio of the inner orbit with respect to the outer orbit decreases, and the mass ratio of the outer satellite with respect to the inner satellite increases. This study therefore provides useful information about dynamical properties of the triple minor planets in the Solar system.