|Discovery date 1 October 1999|
Observation arc 15169 days (41.53 yr)
Discovered 1 October 1999
Argument of perihelion 295.35°
|MPC designation (47171) 1999 TC36|
Aphelion 48.010 AU (7.1822 Tm)
Mean anomaly 0.772985°
|Discovered by E. P. Rubenstein,
Minor planet category Trans-Neptunian object Plutino
Discovery site Kitt Peak National Observatory
Similar Solar System, (19308) 1996 TO66, (84922) 2003 VS2
47171 1999 tc36
(47171) 1999 TC36 (also written: (47171) 1999 TC36) is a system comprising three trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). It was discovered in 1999, by Eric P. Rubenstein and Louis-Gregory Strolger during an observing run at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO). Dr. Rubenstein was searching images taken by Dr. Strolger as part of the Low-Z Supernova Search program. It is classified as a plutino with a 2:3 mean-motion resonance with Neptune, and, currently only being 30.5 AU from the Sun, is among the brighter TNOs. It reached perihelion in July 2015.
(47171) 1999 TC36 is a triple system consisting of a central primary, which is itself a binary, and a small moon (component B). The combined observations by the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, Herschel Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) make it possible to estimate the sizes of the components and consequently provide the range of possible values for the objects’ bulk density. The single-body diameter (effective system size) of 1999 TC36 is currently estimated at 7005393100000000000♠393.1+25.2
The very low estimated density of 0.3–0.8 g/cm3 obtained in 2006 (when the system was thought to be a binary) would require an unusually high porosity of 50–75%, assuming an equal mixture of rock and ice. The direct measurement of visible fluxes of all three components of the system in 2009 by the HST has resulted in an improved average density of 7002532000000000000♠0.532+0.317
−0.211 g/cm3 confirming the earlier conclusion that the object is probably a rubble pile. The density was revised up to 7002640000000000000♠0.64+0.15
−0.11 g/cm3 in 2012 when new information from the Herschel became available. For a bulk density in the range 1–2 g/cm3 the porosity is in the range 36–68%, again confirming that the object is a rubble pile.
1999 TC36 has a very red spectral slope in visible light and a flat spectrum in near infrared. There is also a weak absorption feature near the wavelength of 2 μm, probably caused by water ice. The best model reproducing the near infrared spectrum includes tholins, crystalline water ice, and serpentine as surface materials. These results are for the integrated spectrum of all three components of the system.
The moon, discovered from 8 December 2001 observations by C. A. Trujillo and M. E. Brown using the Hubble Space Telescope and announced on 10 January 2002, has an estimated diameter of 7005132000000000000♠132+8
−9 km and a semi-major axis of 7006741100000000000♠7411±12 km, orbiting its primary in 7006434609280000000♠50.302±0.001 d. The moon is estimated to only have a mass of about 7017750000000000000♠0.75×1018 kg.
In 2009, analysis of Hubble images revealed that the primary is itself composed of two similar-sized components. This central pair has a semi-major axis of around 867 km and a period of about 1.9 days. Assuming equal albedos of about 0.079, the primary components are approximately A1=7005272000000000000♠272+17
−19 km and A2=7005251000000000000♠251+16
−17 km in diameter. The component B orbits the barycenter of the A1+A2 system. The system mass estimated from the motion of the component B is 7019127500000000000♠(12.75±0.06)×1018 kg. The orbital motion of the A1 and A2 components gives somewhat a higher estimated mass of 7019142000000000000♠(14.20±0.05)×1018 kg. The discrepancy is probably related to unaccounted gravitational interactions of the components in a complex triple system.
There exist two main hypotheses on how the triple system of 1999 TC36 formed. The first one is a giant collision and subsequent reaccretion in the disc. The second one is gravitational capture of a third object by a preexisting binary. The similar sizes of A1 and A2 components favor the latter hypothesis.
1999 TC36 was suggested as a target for New Horizons 2, a proposed twin of its namesake that would fly by Jupiter, Uranus, and up to four KBOs.