Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Mihaly Horanyi

Second Advisor

Tobin Munsat

Third Advisor

Robert Anderson


Two years ago, the centaur Chariklo was discovered to have two rings, which made it the first known minor planet to have a ring system. The uniqueness of this situation calls for an examination as to how a two-ring system can be sustained around a relatively small interplanetary object. We simulate, in 2D and 3D, a two-body system with solar radiation pressure forces perturbing a dust particle's orbit around a Chariklo-sized object. The lifetime of orbiting dust particles is estimated by integrating their orbits as a function of their size and initial position. Current results show that for a water-ice or silicate particle with radius of 100 micrometer, its simulated orbit lasts for only about 20 years. This short lifetime suggests that there may be additional forces keeping the ring particle in place, and/or the presence of active sources of these particles. It is also found that the dust particle's simulated orbital lifetime is longest when it is positioned where Chariklo's rings are located, which agrees with the observations already made of Chariklo's ring system. This research is the first step in better understanding the formation and sustainability of non-planetary ring systems.

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